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OPINION

Chang: Help is available for avoiding tax foreclosure

State Rep. Stephanie Chang

Although Michigan’s economy is slowly improving, many families and residents are struggling to make ends meet. On top of the plethora of issues related to other basic needs like food and transportation, thousands in our neighborhoods are in danger of losing their homes. In Wayne County, there are about 75,000 properties facing foreclosure, with nearly 62,000 of those located in Detroit, because of unpaid back taxes. We all know a friend or neighbor who is having financial difficulties and facing foreclosure.

I have seen the enormous pride that many homeowners in my district have in taking care of their homes and yards the best they can with the resources they have. So many have proudly shown me their gardens, creatively decorated front porches, or family photo archive walls. Our homes are not just where we reside — we have real emotional and social connections to our homes and neighborhoods. Home is about much more than dollars and cents. Maya Angelou said, “The ache for home lives in all of us.”

Foreclosure is a scourge on our communities because it forces people out of their homes and destabilizes our neighborhoods. Too many foreclosed homes are stripped bare by scrappers, and some become drug houses. It is far better for community organizations and public officials to work as hard as we can to keep people in their homes and into payment plans to deal with their back taxes, instead of creating danger to neighborhoods by creating more empty, decaying buildings.

The prospect of losing a home can be terrifying, and it isn’t always easy to find the services and agencies that can help. The first step to take is to contact the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office to determine what taxes are owed on the home. The Wayne County Treasurer can be reached by calling (313) 224-5990, by emailing taxinfo@waynecounty.com, by visiting the website at www.waynecounty.com/pta or visiting the treasurer’s office at 400 Monroe, Fifth floor, Detroit (in Greektown).

If a homeowner needs assistance paying property taxes there are agencies and nonprofit groups that may be able to help. There are other programs available to residents who qualify such as extensions, hardship exemptions for the future, or stipulated payment agreements that could include interest rate reductions.

Before I began serving as a state Representative for House District 6, I was an organizer — and in a way, I still am. Working with community members on challenging social justice issues for the past decade has made me keenly aware of the multitude of problems faced by families in my community. One important job of any organizer or public servant is to help empower people to navigate local and state government to access resources and services to improve well-being in our communities.

No one, including state and local officials, wants homes to fall into foreclosure because of the problems it causes in neighborhoods and communities. If you or someone you know are facing foreclosure, please call on the Treasurer’s Office, the United Community Housing Coalition, the Step Forward program or other organizations for help. My door is open as well, and I invite District 6 residents to call me at (844) 672-4264 to find out what programs might be available to you. The bottom line is this: When facing foreclosure, asking for help is the right step to take.

State Rep. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, represents the 6th District.

Local resources to prevent foreclosure

■ Wayne County Treasurer’s Office: (313) 224-5990, taxinfo@waynecounty.com, www.waynecounty.com/pta/, or visit 400 Monroe, Fifth Floor, Detroit, in Greektown.

■ United Community Housing Coalition: (313) 963-3310, 220 Bagley, Suite 224, Detroit.

■ Michigan Legal Services: (313) 964-4130, 220 Bagley, Suite 900, Detroit. Homeowner mortgage and property tax foreclosure walk-in hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 9:00 a.m.-Noon, Landlord/tenant issues Tuesday and Thursday, Noon.

■ Legal Aid and Defender Association: (313) 967-5555

■ Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Step Forward Program: (866) 946-7432, Open lines Monday-Friday 8-5.