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Wayne Co. offers aid to homeowners behind on taxes

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Some Wayne County homeowners who are behind on their property taxes are getting help to hang on to their homes.

County Treasurer Eric Sabree announced Monday a program that reduces the interest rates on delinquent property taxes has been extended through June 2019.

Under the program, homeowners at risk of foreclosure because of delinquent property taxes can sign up for a payment plan and get the interest rates on those taxes lowered from 18 percent to 6 percent.

Sabree said there are about 12,300 homeowners in Wayne County who are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure. At the same time last year, there were more than 20,000 homeowners who were facing foreclosure, he said.

“It also allows taxpayers to put multiple years of delinquency into one payment plan," Sabree said. This is a great program -- it's designed to help individuals pay their current taxes and their delinquencies at the same time. It's the best program we have to offer. ”

The county treasurer made the announcement and remarks at a news conference held at his offices in downtown Detroit's Greektown district. He was joined by Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

Evans said helping homeowners avoid foreclosure is critical for both the county and Detroit.

"There's no doubt this is critical, not just for the people because it's the right thing to do, but it's critical for the growth of the county and the revitalization of the city," he said. "We need people to stay in their homes."

Duggan said the extension is an example of of government programs that work.

"The number facing foreclosures (in the county) is down dramatically from last year," he said. "But if it's you, it's the most important thing happening in your life right now.

"This is not a time to lose your house," he said. "Come down and see the Treasurer. He'll work it out with you because we want to keep you in our neighborhoods. "

Sabree said the county has more than 17,000 homeowners who are enrolled in tax payment plans to avoid foreclosure.

The program first was put in place in 2015, officials said. It expired in June 2016, but a bill signed in January by Gov. Rick Snyder reinstated it. Sabree led the effort to extend it for another three years. Both Evans and Duggan praised and thanked Sabree for his efforts.

Only owner-occupants are eligible for the reduced interest rate program, Sabree said. He also said the county began offering it April 10 and has enrolled 500 homeowners already. Homeowners have until June 7 to sign up for a payment plan for delinquent taxes, officials said.

"We just want people to know: Don't give up," Sabree said. "Come in and get into a payment plan."

Detroit homeowner Alicia Strong said she took advantage of the program a couple of years ago. She said she's an entrepreneur and because she focused on her business, a restaurant in Detroit, she fell behind on her property taxes. She heard about the interest rate reduction program and signed up for a payment plan to lower the interest rate on what she owed.

"It helped me tremendously," she said. "I was looking at paying four-to-six-grand but ended up paying $211 a month on the program because my interest was reduced. It's phenomenal."

For information on the program or to sign up for a property tax payment plan, log onto the County Treasurer's website, email taxinfo@waynecounty.com, call (313) 224-5990 or visit the Treasurer's Office at 400 Monroe in Greektown.

cramirez@detroitnews.com