Treasurers: Program helps cut Detroit area foreclosures

Jo Kroeker
The Detroit News

Delinquent taxes and foreclosures are down in the tri-county area, thanks to a federally funded program, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb treasurers said at a news conference Wednesday.

The state’s Step Forward Michigan prevents foreclosures through no-interest loans that wipe the slate clean for people behind on their property taxes. The treasurers reported a combined total of $274.5 million in delinquent taxes.

Nearly 16,000 homeowners in the three southeast Michigan counties have received assistance toward their mortgages, property taxes and condo fees, said Mary Townley, vice president of the Michigan Homeowner Assistance Nonprofit Housing Corporation.

According to Townley, most homeowners use the program to alleviate back taxes. An average of $7,000 per household goes directly to the treasurer’s office to pay off taxes, with a limit of $30,000.

“A lot of hardworking people find themselves unable to keep up with their county taxes and mortgage payments because of some temporary setback, and fortunately, the Step Forward program is here to help,” said Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree.

Wayne County is the largest user of the program. Since 2010, 10,834 homeowners have received $101.4 million in assistance. The county has drastically reduced tax foreclosures, from 23,000 in 2015 to 13,900 in 2016. So far this year, the number is just under 8,000, said Bruce Babiarz, a spokesman for the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office.

In 2016, Wayne County reported $168 million in delinquent taxes, Oakland County reported $66.5 million and Macomb County reported $40 million.

For 2016, the Oakland County Treasurer’s Office reported these back taxes from Oakland County communities:

■Southfield: $8.2 million

■Pontiac: $5.9 million

■Royal Oak: $4.4 million

■West Bloomfield Township: $3.9 million

■Waterford Township: $3.7 million

■Bloomfield Township: $3.6 million

Meisner said though people associate Oakland County with prosperity, it too was hit during the foreclosure crisis, losing about $14 billion in taxable value.

Since 2010, Step Forward Michigan has helped 3,059 homeowners in Oakland County and 2,260 in Macomb County, according to statistics from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Meisner said the program helps restore the tax base that local governments depend on, especially since Proposal A and the Headlee Amendment limit tax revenue from rising property values.

July 18-19 in Pontiac, Oakland County will auction off properties, everything from vacant land to lakefront, that it foreclosed during or before 2014.

“It’s not just about recuperating costs, but also about reducing blight,” Oakland County deputy treasurer Ross Gavin said.


Step Forward Michigan: Those interested can apply online at stepforwardmichigan.org or apply on the phone toll-free at 866-946-7432.

If you go:

  • What: 2017 Oakland County Land Sale
  • Where: Ultimate Soccer Arenas, 867 South Boulevard, Pontiac, Michigan
  • When:
  • July 18 – Townships, villages and cities, except Pontiac
  • July 19 – Auction for Pontiac properties
  • Doors open at 8:30 a.m.
  • Live auction begins at 10 a.m. sharp.
  • Pre-register by July 14. There is no same day registration.