To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#tfjune8
As dozens took over street to protest on June 8
Tax foreclosures delayed again – but just for 3 days
Thousands threatened with losing their homes
On Monday June 8, hundreds of people still crowded into the Wayne County Treasurer’s office, desperate to find a way to save their homes from crushing taxes and foreclosure. Outside, protesters blocked the street, calling for a moratorium on all tax foreclosures.
The County had twice delayed its plan to foreclose on 37,000 homes – including 22,325 ocupied by owners and their families -- at the end of March. Now more than 4,400 owner-occupants and their families are still on the verge of losing their homes to tax foreclosure. The vast majority are Detroiters who had paid taxes for years before the burden got too heavy. (Detroit has the highest poverty of any city in America, yet few homeowners were told they could get a poverty exemption.) Foreclosure is the biggest cause of the blight taking down one Detroit neighborhood after another.
Thousands more: one payment from being thrown back into foreclosure
Even for families who managed to dodge the foreclosure bullet, the crisis is far from over. Many were pushed into harsh terms that they can ill afford, based on assessment values way above what their homes are worth. One woman who lives on a fixed income managed to scrape together $1400 for the first payment, but illness forced her to skip the next payment, so she could lose it all – including her home. Others hit with crises like layoffs need much more flexibility as they struggle to catch up.
And there's a double whammy, as the city of Detroit again adds to the desperation of Detroit families by shutting off the water for tens of thousands who got behind on their water bills.
The ACLU expressed alarm at this "unprecedented human rights catastrophe.” In concert with Eviction Defense and 14 other groups, the ACLU called for a moratorium on foreclosures and warned that “tossing thousands of human beings into the streets as the county plans to do is against the law, not to mention callous and short-sighted…
“The impending foreclosures — which stem, in large part, from excessive taxation on based on grossly inflated assessments — are illegal and violate Detroit residents' constitutional rights."
Detroit homeowners "have been over-assessed for years, if not decades,” said the statement the groups signed. “We need the county to provide more time and means for people to save their homes—but we also need an immediate adjustment of this unfair tax burden to reflect the actual market value of these properties. The county should not try to balance its books on the backs of our most exploited citizens.”
U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit also calls for a moratorium on foreclosures in Wayne County.
County loses money when it forecloses
And the foreclosures are “counterproductive,” say the ACLU and allied groups. In the past three years foreclosed homes were sold in auctions that raised just $1 for every $7 that the county had demanded from the former owners in taxes, penalties and interest. And this year, for the first time, the homeowners being foreclosed on are barred from bidding on their homes as they’re auctioned off in Sept. and October – so it’s likely many will be thrown out on the street as distant investors snap up their homes for bargain-basement prices.
Meanwhile, “schools have been closed and services cut to the bone, [and] developers have been given land and generous tax breaks for their projects,” Dianne Feeley points out in Black Agenda Report. “These include turning 8.3 acres of land over to Dan Gilbert, head of Quicken Loans, to develop the Brush Park area just above central downtown...”
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#ferndalemeet
Latest news: HUD issues scathing report
HUD blasts Ferndale Housing Commission, demands that it give back misspent funds
Meanwhile, tenants call for relief, organizing steps up
|Housing Commission meeting at Autumn House|
Residents of Ferndale’s Autumn House, united with Eviction Defense and Section 8 voucher holders, are organizing for basic rights denied them by the Ferndale Housing Commission. After Eviction Defense & others pushed HUD to step up to its duty to regulate the Commission, it launched an investigation. HUD's scathing report adds to the pressure for big changes. Here is an update from DED activist Miriam Pickens:
The HUD Report on the Ferndale Housing Commission came out June 10th. It damned the Board for not carrying out its responsibilities. The number one complaint was the $132,000 wrongly given to Debra Wilson, ex-Director, as severance pay. The Board is liable to pay back $187,000 that it spent on itself, using money meant to be used for low-income housing.
|Testimony in April about the Housing Commission's neglect & discrimination. Read more.|
|Photos from OC115 video|
Tenants suffer from Board neglect
The residents of Autumn House are still without air conditioning, which was brought up for discussion at the last Board meeting, May 20th. Two newly appointed Board members, two representatives from the City, as well as representatives from HUD have all toured the building, located at 500 E. 9 Mile, east of Woodward. They were shown the damp rugs and mold created by a leaking roof and they felt the heat of the building, even though the tour took place when it was only 70 degrees outside.
What happens, residents ask, when it hits 90 and my asthma kicks in? A health crisis, that is what happens.
The residents, as Ferndale Housing Tenants Union, meet bi-weekly. At their last meeting, they discussed and prioritized 11 items needing attention. They will present this to the next Board meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24 at Autumn House. The number one item was lack of air conditioning. A (leaking) window air unit feebly pushes air into the community room. The upstairs floors are unbearable. There are issues about how the air conditioners will get paid for. One Board member stated at the last meeting that we wait until someone dies, then we get their window unit.
'No Air? No Fair!'
We should not have to pay for the misuse of funds by the Board! Residents made picket signs, “No Air? No Fair!” and “Let’s Cool It.” And walked to the City Manager’s office, down the street. The Assistant City Manager met with us (along with 2 security guards) and said his office has nothing to do with the running of Autumn House, BUT that they were in negotiations with HUD. Ann Heler, one of the newly appointed Board members saw our little group, but left before talking with any of us.
By supporting each other, tenants make impact
We then went, as a group, to the FHC office, at the Withington Apartments. You need an appointment, the office person first said, then let us in. One of our people had received a Nonpayment of Rent notice, even though he had a receipt and his rent had been put in the drop box. Xerox copies were made, assurances were given that he didn’t have to worry about that paper, and so we left. It was good that we all went, so they could see and so that we can see, we are not alone and we do not have to carry the entire burden by oneself.
We insist Commission follow HUD policy on vouchers
Another important decision scheduled to be made at this Board meeting is the change in policy regarding vouchers. Both Charmonique Hopkins and Teresa Benton, among others, were denied vouchers based on the fact that a vacant building was in their neighborhood. We fought this racist, anti-Detroit policy. Both women have had their vouchers reinstated. HUD’s policy is that the structure itself must be free from damage. We want this to be the policy of Ferndale Housing as well. Supporters are encouraged to join us at the next Ferndale Housing Commission Board meeting, where Autumn House residents will put forward their demands. Wednesday, June 24, 5 p.m. Autumn House, 500 E. 9 Mile.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#GMruling
|Folks who supported the Gratiot- McDougall families at the May 16 "One Day Longer" barbecue enjoyed terrific food & music, gave generously.|
Judge dismissed motion to evict 12 Gratiot McDougall families!
Families get breathing space in long fight to buy the homes they were promised,
plus generous support at May 16 barbecue
In a major boost for the 12 families struggling to save their homes, on April 27 District Court Judge David Perkins dismissed developer Peter Barclae’s latest motion to evict them. Thanks to all who came out to support them!
The Judge ruled that Barclae's motion violated court rules. While their case is being appealed in Circuit Court they can't be evicted, even after Judge Leslie Kim Smith ruled that Barclae was not legally bound by his signed agreements to sell the homes to the families living in them. The families are appealing Judge Smith’s flawed decision for its many irregularities.
The Gratiot McDougall families and Detroit Eviction defense held a successful May 16 barbecue-fundraiser to raise funds for the appeal. At the same time they hope that Barclae — facing continued litigation and community mobilization against eviction -- will be more willing to finally negotiate a settlement that keeps families in their homes.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#sims
Marie Sims wins fight to regain home
Fannie Mae had ignored her right to rebuy home & sold it to someone else
Last October, after Marie Sims couldn't make her inflated mortgage payments, her Detroit home went into foreclosure.
|As she fought for her own home, Sims also supports other families facing eviction.|
The federally-owned Fannie Mae mortgage company bought it at a sheriff’s sale. Marie knew she had the right to buy her home back and made an offer of $5000. But instead Fannie Mae sold it for just $3600 to a man who wanted to evict her.
Under Michigan law, there’s a six-month “redemption period” after the sheriff’s sale, where a person has the right to buy back her home. On top of that, Fannie Mae was supposed to follow a new policy that should have let Marie buy back the home at its real market value.
With support from Eviction Defense, Sims was determined not to leave. On April 24, she & her defenders finally convinced the buyer to sell the home back to her at a fair price.
Lisa Boudreaux also gets back her home after Freddie Mac tried to evict her
When the family home that Lisa Boudreaux grew up in was foreclosed on and taken over by Freddie Mac, she was determined to fight the planned eviction. She did, and she just won. She is now secure in her home. Here is her story.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#westy
Tax foreclosure nightmare:
|Unjust eviction drew supporters & Fox2 News to rally.|
Tax system 'absolutely fail's Cheryl West, others facing foreclosure
April 24 rally at her home called for end to tax foreclosure injustice
“She’s been here for 60 years, she’d paid into the system over and over these years and years," said an outraged Errol Jennings, one of the many people who rallied to the defense of Cheryl West in front of her Detroit home. "In the end, she... lost it all as a result of the system just absolutely failing."
"To just have my heart ripped out like this - my whole life is on hold," Ms. West said, as she still hoped to stop the eviction. More information on Ms. West's struggle.
See also Mother Jones magazine article on the chaos as thousands of Detroiters try to save their homes from tax foreclosure, and the March People's Assembly where Cheryl and other Eviction Defense activists spoke.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#council3-24
Tax foreclosure nightmare:
Pressed by crowd's testimony on March 24
Detroit City Council urges 'extraordinary efforts to avoid... mass residential tax foreclosures on occupied homes'
|Channel 7 covered the March 24 rally at Detroit City Council, & interviewed people fighting to save homes from tax foreclosure.|
After some 40 people spoke to the Council, urging them to do more to halt the huge tax foreclosure crisis looming over families and neighborhoods, the City Council passed a strong resolution. It urged that the County, State Legislature and city assessors take specific strong actions to help families save their homes. As the Council points out, "the housing crisis of the last decade, fueled by predatory subprime loans" and debt obligations imposed by Wall Street, had "greatly inflated" the assessed value and tax burden of Detroit homes, "putting many more in harm’s way." The government doesn't get "full, or even minimally adequate value for the sale of foreclosed properties," it adds, and instead loses "inhabited, taxable property." Read the resolution.
Councilman Gabe Leland, who got involved at the urging of the Russell Woods-Sullivan neighborhood association, won applause when he blasted "unscrupulous investors" who take advantage of tax foreclosure. He said that a temporary halt should be considered and distributed a letter he wrote the Mayor urging, among other things, that occupied homes facing foreclosure should be re-assessed "right now."
Fine words that must be followed by action
Council President Brenda Jones agreed that there's "nothing else more pressing to the city... We’re actively involved in doing demolition, but when there's a foreclosure, within a matter of weeks – or days –homes are empty, strippers come in... We have to help our citizens to stay in their homes."
10,000 owner-occupied homes were slated for foreclosure April 1
Deputy Treasurer Eric Sabree revealed that while 8,200 families have dodged the tax foreclosure bullet by signing payment plans, 10,000 owner-occupied homes are still slated for foreclosure. On March 31, we rallied to press the County to halt those foreclosures.
Many people insisted that the city and county pull homes from tax foreclosure while they sort out the errors that led to this crisis. Here's a taste of what was said:
People call out for action
"I challenge treasurer to do what is needed, to keep families in their homes. They can act now. So many families suffering in silence."
"The treasurer has the power to withhold any properties from auction --right now!"
"My partner applied 4 times for help, they sent back his files. An investor bought his home for $1500 and was selling it back to us for $15,000. We made our payments, but he didn’t pay his taxes, and we got foreclosed on. This home has been 64 years in his family."
"Our tax bills are illegal. The assessed and tax value are wrong. We’ve had a Katrina here."
"We’re going to bring the heat of the street to this issue."
"When I was foreclosed on, I had over $5000 in escrow with the city -- but the city didn’t give the money back or apply it to the taxes I owed."
"Remember those homes are occupied by people – seniors and children, families hurting."
"Landlords are supposed to pay a fee – but they're not, and they're kicking people out of their homes."
"I have family members facing foreclosure and I know that it isn’t right."
"You need to call an emergency. $250 million sits there and they want to waste that money tearing down more houses."
"We need to call a state of emergency. It’s time for us to get together. We don’t want to go back to the year of 1957."
"I applied 4 times to Step Forward for help, and they denied me every time. My house been in the family 60 years. We were the first black family in the neighborhood, and now we're all being emptied out of the neighborhood."
"Since the typical household has 2.4 people, at least 24,000 are still facing foreclosure. And those who are in payment plans are still only one payment away from losing their homes."
"$40 million in revolving funds to help with delinquent taxes are being spent to rehab buildings for the county."
"Meanwhile we also have water shutoffs, plans are unaffordable. We need time – a moratorium."
"Blight removal funds have been illegally re-appropriated. $251 million provided for relief is unspent. Join with us to demand more spent to avoid foreclosures."
"We're gong to work very hard to make sure that our residents stay in their homes."
"People have lost homes sold in auction and they didn’t even know about it"
"The City Council should press the county to use the authority they have. Where are these people going to go? It’s a strategy for gentrification."
"I tried to get into a payment plan before being on the foreclosure list – I was denied. Plans should be reasonable & available earlier; and penalties should stop when people enter into a payment plan."
"There are so many reasons for people being foreclosed on."
"This is a slow-moving train. We want to have children whose parents can give them a normal life."
"They’re trying to bring people to Detroit. They might as well say, 'Welcome to Detroit, you can stay 2 hours'.”
"This has been devastating. This has got to stop."
"Even 4-legged animals look out for each other."
"It is essential that the Detroit City Council join with their constituents to hold this city together. We can’t tolerate thousands of hard working people becoming homeless.”
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#burkeswin
Tax foreclosure nightmares - & a victory!
Detroiters fight to save homes from past tax foreclosures
As developers & slumlords take control of our neighborhoods
Daryl and Lula Burke (left) are lifelong Detroiters who just won back their home after a tough struggle they never should have had to fight. They had become victims of tax foreclosure after Daryl, a Vietnam veteran, became gravely ill and didn't get the support he was promised from the Veteran Affairs Dept. How they won.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#brinkley-combs
Tax foreclosure nightmare:
|Former Motown sax player Kenny Brinkley & his partner Sandi Combs|
Without notice, Calif. company took their home in a tax auction:
Help stop eviction of Brinkley-Combs!
You can help ailing couple save home that's been in family 60 years
Kenny Brinkley and Sandi Combs thought they were on their way to buying back the home they lost in a tax auction in 2010.
|See Fox2 News report on how tax auction buyer threatens to throw Kenny & Sandi out of their home|
Both were trying to recover from hard times -- Kenny is a legendary Motown saxophone player who had triple-bypass heart surgery in 2002, and Sandi lost her full-time job in 2006. They struck a deal with the company that bought their home in 2010 that their monthly payments would go toward buying it back.
They didn't realize the company wasn't paying its taxes until a California company bought their home at last year's tax auctions and immediately moved to evict them.
Judge denied eviction order March 20, but on May 20 another judge considered it
When the couple went to court March 20, backed by supporters, Judge Garrett refused to order their eviction. The investor who bought their home took them to court again on May 20 to evict them, and the judge was less supportive but gave them time to appeal.
Jazz benefit brought out crowd to offer support
Left: Kenny Brinkley & Sandi Combs, surrounded by supporters who backed them in court on Feb. 20. See excellent Fox2 News story on how they won an eviction delay & organize to save their home.
Top: Benefit at Bert's Place Feb. 19 had great music & helped raise money for their fight.
Top: Kenny Brinkley & Sandi Combs, surrounded by supporters who backed them in court on Feb. 20.See excellent Fox2 News story on how they won an eviction delay & organize to save their home.
Below: Benefit at Bert's Place Feb. 19 had great music & helped raise money for their fight.
You can still contribute - see their GoFundMe page.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#bryant
Tax foreclosure nightmare:
Disa Bryant desperately tries to regain home
Thanks to all who backed Bryant in court April 7!
Disa lost her home in last year's tax auction despite thinking she was bidding to save it. The investor who bought her home for $8,900 at first refused to sell it back to her, and took her to court to evict her. Then he insisted she pay $30,000 - $40 000 to get her home back. Eviction Defense supporters are pressing him to accept a realistic offer from Ms. Bryant.
She needs our support! Find out more.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#tsehayaparty
Fundraising/ auction dinner party to support eviction victory was wonderful!
|Crowd enjoying performance by Motown's legendary Stubb Girls.|
Thanks to all who came on January 24 & contributed so generously
Homeowners fight eviction
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#GPprotest
Group protests near office of local manager trying to evict Brinkley-Combs
'Have you no shame?'
On April 21, a local group marched past the home office of Blackbird Asset Management. Blackbird is working for the distant investor who's trying to evict Brinkley and Combs from Detroit. The police were called but quickly agreed the group has every right to protest and drove off.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#dexter
Freddie Mac was set to evict in November, but finally gave in to pressure
A powerful video by Detroit Eviction Defense was part of the pressure that finally shamed this federally-owned mortgage company into halting its senseless drive to evict this family in November. Read about Dexter's courageous stand.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#stephens
|Our Oct. 29 picket helped convince Wells Fargo to talk.|
Partial victory, but foreclosure case still looms
The eviction case against this 93-year old woman and her family is now dismissed without prejudice, a key turning point in their seven-year battle to save the home she and her husband bought in 1968.
"We are David going up against Goliath but remember David won the battle!!" says her daughter Denise Stephens, who also gives "Thanks to Detroit Eviction Defense for all you do.
"BUT... we must keep the pressure on Wells Fargo by calling Ms. Marissa Rouse to reverse and expunge the foreclosure," she adds. More information.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#whitfield
Lela Whitfield fights for her home
Meanwhile Fannie Mae lawyers make big bucks as they keep trying to evict her
When Lela Whitfield went back to 36th District Court Oct. 24 - - yet again – to resist Fannie Mae’s drive to evict her from her family home, the judge agreed that Fannie Mae had made mistakes and that the foreclosure of Lela’s home was illegal. But after hours of eviction hearings that began in May, Lela still can't buy back her home. At a hearing in March, the Judge delayed action until June.
Thousands of $$, days of court time -- all to destroy a $7000 home -Find out more, Act Now!
Hernandez family win back money stolen by mortgage impostor
Family fought eviction for over a year, now in talks to buy back home
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#gm-court
29 people stood up for Gratiot McDougall families
At March 6 Circuit Court hearing
At the hearing developer Peter Barclae tried again to get Judge Leslie Kim Smith to let him evict 13 families.
After 29 people stood in support when the case was called, Barclae claimed that he would finally pay the back taxes he owes on the homes, averting tax foreclosure. Judge Smith decided she wanted to meet with the lawyers the next Friday before making her decision. Four days before the meeting Barclae showed his contempt by sending bogus “Termination of Tenancy” notices to the families.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#fanniepr
Feds tell Fannie Mae/ Freddie Mac to sell families their homes back at real value!
|See video of Senator Warren blasting Mel Watt for his inaction even after millions of families lost their homes.|
Families now in foreclosure should finally get chance to buy back their homes
With little fanfare, the government finally announced a new policy that should give thousands of families who lost their homes in the foreclosure crisis a chance to buy their homes back at their real market value. See news release. People who bought homes before housing prices crashed (often victimized by proven bank fraud) have been stuck with mortgages worth many times what their homes would sell for today.
As millions of folks who got behind on the inflated payments are foreclosed on, the banks dump their debts onto the federally-owned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- which now control nearly two out of three of the nation's mortgages. Yet for years Fannie and Freddie stubbornly refused to adjust inflated mortgage values so families could save their homes. It instead spends millions to evict them and then either leaves their homes to be trashed by strippers or sells them at huge discounts to new buyers.
The wounds of that policy are scarring communities across the nation. Eviction Defense and other groups have vigorously called for change – See how we greeted Fannie/Freddy's director Mel Watt when he came to Detroit. Senator Elizabeth Warren also blasted him for his inaction.
Now that change has finally been announced, the key is to make sure people know their new rights , insist on them in courtrooms across the nation, and press for future principle reduction.
See our report on Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac: A Hurricane without Water
Tax auction & foreclosure news
Tax foreclosure nightmare:
Cheryl West fought injustice
of losing home
When Cheryl West was hit by hard times, her back taxes and penalties mounted. In 2014 she lost the home she grew up in -- that had been in her family 60 years -- to tax foreclosure.
That should never have happened. No one told Ms. West that her income loss would qualify her for a Poverty Property Tax Exemption - an option both the City and County keep quiet about.
Step Forward refused to help, but we did
West applied for the State-run Step Forward program four different times. Although Step Forward is supposed to help people save their homes from foreclosure, it rejects homeowners who apply 57% of the time --even as it approves nearly all requests to tear homes down.
|Russell Woods community leaders convinced Channel 4 news to expose how tax foreclosure looms over an 85-year-old long-time resident.|
Neighborhood pushes to stop tax foreclosure
The Russell Woods-Sullivan Area Association pressed the Detroit City Council to back its important “Stop the Foreclosures” resolution that could well be a model for other neighborhoods. Read & download it.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#hardhit
Get $251 million in 'Helping Hardest Hit' funds to families facing tax foreclosure!
April 16 Protest targets misuse of funds
The Feds have sent the State of Michigan $498 million in Helping Hardest Hit Homeowner funds "to help homeowners who are at high risk of default or foreclosure.”
Yet even as Michigan's worst-ever tax foreclosure crisis threatens to push tens of thousands of families out of their homes, the State has spent less than $2 of every $5 of that money to aid homeowners. Yet $49 million was spent on blight removal and "administrative expenses."
The remaining $251 million could tackle the tax disaster and save our communities, says Moratorium Now, which called the protest. It says the State wants to "illegally" use $173 million for “blight removal" and to pay bureaucrats, leaving just $79 million to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
For more information: Moratorium Now Coalition, 313-680-5508.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#meet3-15
|Photo by Valerie Jean|
'Hell No, Detroiters won't go!'
Emergency People's Assembly on tax foreclosures in March
We and other groups fighting this year's tsunami of tax foreclosures participated in this meeting called by Moratorium Now to plan direct action to save our communities.
For more information, visit Moratorium Now.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#taxesjudge
On Feb. 18 & 19:
Judge okayed tax foreclosures on thousands families
"Scavenger companies [are] coming into town, buying up properties at foreclosure auctions, and using whatever they can – illegal evictions, tricks and just mass court filings to get people out of their homes.
"No one has really seen anything like it."
Colombo refused to consider hardships & excessive taxes of hundreds who came to object
Several hundred people who had signed objections to having their homes put into tax foreclosure filed into Wayne County Chief Judge Colombo's Courtroom on Feb. 18 and 19. Many told the Judge they had been put into payment plans that they they can't afford.
But despite the many compelling stories people gave describing their medical, economic and familial hardship, Judge Colombo's response to the vast majority of cases was to rule the foreclosure 'granted.'
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#auctions2014
Wayne County's 2014 tax auctions were devastating
Yet they hit just 1/4 as many families as those facing foreclosure now.
Tax bills remain sky-high, yet housing values have plunged.
|Some 40 people came to October speak-out on tax-auction abuses & ways to organize.|
More than 9,000 occupied homes went up for auction in September. One investor alone snapped up 103 properties -- one out of ten sold. When the County then tried to sell the rest — including thousands of family homes — in October, big investors were again big bidders. This year 62,000 properties are slated to be auctioned to the highest bidder.
Auctions give an opportunity to “vulture” investors to profit off residents and homeowners hit by hardship and unjust tax assessments. But for people who are elderly, sick, laid-off or otherwise facing economic problems, the auction can mean the loss of both a family home and years put into that home.
Many of the investors who buy auctioned homes have a history of neglecting them, contributing to the blight that plagues Detroit and the county. And although they can afford their tax bills, many purposely don't pay taxes when the investment doesn't work out. So after foreclosing, the city can end up without any tax money from the property after all.
Over the last four years thousands of families have lost their homes in the auctions, and the future will drive thousands more out of their houses, so long as this failed tax system is not addressed. Over ¼ of the property in Detroit is “subject to foreclosure,” say researchers.
Repayment plans & programs for distressed homeowners fall short
The foreclosures don't ease the core issues of unreasonable debt, red tape, needless restriction and hard times. The broken property tax system, failed job recovery, increased costs for those on fixed income, and a city bankruptcy that targets pensioners, all continue to fuel this tax foreclosure and eviction explosion. Yet this year, for the first time, State lawmakers want to ban homeowners who got behind on taxes from buying back their own homes at the foreclosure sales.
The last thing we need is more families evicted from their homes in Detroit and Wayne County. Many have nowhere to go. And we see the wreckage of past foreclosures all around us.
Step Forward stepped back
Although Step Forward Michigan, controlled by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), got $498 million in federal money to help families avoid both tax and mortgage foreclosures, they are denying applications for assistance by the thousands (only 30% are approved!), and have made themselves hard to reach. Just 22% of the millions earmarked for distressed homeowners had been spent by the last months of 2013. At the October, 2014 "speakout" we sponsored, people told of abuses and how we can fight such abuses as the auctions continue. Flyer outlining some of the issues people raised.
A neighborhood-based movement can demand real changes.
Tenants organize for rights
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#ah
Autumn House tenants confront Ferndale Housing Commission abuses
Autumn House has been “run like a prison,” explained attorney Bob Day, who backed residents and voucher holders as they spoke out at an April 13 Ferndale City Council meeting.
“Residents and voucher holders... came to the podium one by one… to share complaints about the housing program and ask the City Council to get involved in fixing the problems they live with on a day to day basis.” reported OC115.
Autumn House and Section 8 voucher holders met in solidarity March 4 to confront HUD about the abuses and brokenness of the Ferndale Housing Commission under former Ferndale Housing Commission director, Deborah Wilson.
The video shows Autumn House residents speaking out about Deborah Wilson, yet the Board didn't fire her for being caught stealing prescription drugs from tenants. It instead allowed Wilson to step down and in February, approved giving Wilson a severance settlement of $130,000.
As HUD employee Valerie Sims said in the meeting, "This is just the beginning" for residents fighting back.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#charmonique
|Video tells Charmonique's story - how the strong life she built from tragedy was endangered by cold-hearted policies.|
How Charmonique Hopkins won back her home
Organizing makes a difference!
Detroiter Charmonique Hopkins’ struggle began in May, 2014, when her family was denied a voucher for a home they had lived in for seven years. Her newly constructed home was not even inspected before she was denied her voucher, the denial based on a boarded up house within a 3 block radius.
Ms. Hopkins spoke out, contacted media, friends, family and Detroit Eviction Defense. She came to meetings and helped organize a fundraiser at her home, which raised enough money to keep the landlord from kicking her out. She was instrumental in publicizing her case and in organizing family and friends in support. She also leafleted at the Transit Authority and in other Detroit locations for city-wide tenant meetings, which she attended with friends.
Inspired by Charmonique, Teresa Benton also stood up for her rights
This media attention attracted Teresa Benton who had suffered similar injustice from Ferndale Housing Commission. She contacted us and involved herself in the broader struggle. She spoke to the Board and let them know how devastating their decision had been to her family, leaving them to live with various relatives, and in effect, homeless. In her words, they “insulted her intelligence” and questioned her ability to make good decisions for her family.
The Ferndale Housing Commission issued an APOLOGY to both women, asserting that they didn’t realize the harm they had caused. As Bob Day said, there was no problem until Ferndale Housing Commission created one – they were the ones who caused the unnecessary stress and harm faced by these families.
There are also problems experienced by the tenants within buildings run by Ferndale Housing Commission, some of which were brought forward at the board meeting – bedbugs, locked community room, repairs not done in a timely manner. We are now working with tenants in their efforts at self-organization.
We also note that the board (all-white) has been challenged more than once as to their composition by tenants of color. We feel tenants and voucher holders should be represented on the board. This would allow problems to be discussed and solved in a more timely fashion. It would be more representative and would be more sensitive to some of the racial issues that are present.
At first they called the police on us!
The first time Detroit Eviction Defense approached the board, they called the police on us and refused to meet with Charmonique Hopkins and her attorney. But diligent organizing and direct action does make a difference!
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#tenants11-14
Tenants plan mutual support
At city-wide meetings
Tenants Defense held its second meeting on November 22. About 50 people attended. We discussed the spread of gentrification and the resulting displacement. This is not just limited to Detroit, but is happening all over the country and in other parts of the world. The media does not report our situations or our stories. It was suggested that we need our own newsletter.
Meetings were also held in December and January, and are now being held on the last Saturday of each month- see details.
Another suggestion was for a telephone tree so that we can call each other for support. No one should have to face a slumlord or an eviction threat alone. We want to organize units in each building and in different areas of the city.
There is a war on the elderly and the poor. One of our goals is that people not be forced out of their homes.
First Tenants Defense meeting drew 50 people
Outrage at property neglect, forcing out tenants
About 50 people came out for the Tenants Defense meeting on October 25 at the International Institute in Detroit.
Young and old, black, white, Latin, Middle Eastern, all were concerned about the effects of gentrification (forcing out low-income residents so richer folks can get the property) and other displacement now happening in Detroit.
They are being pushed out, and feel it! Wealthy property owners like Mike Ilitch and Dan Gilbert, want them out so they can raise rents, let subsidies elapse and cater to younger and whiter renters with more money.
Owners are letting properties go into disrepair and neglect. They don’t clean up trash and flagrantly disregard the law as well as common human decency. Some refuse to accept checks or money orders, insisting on cash only. They prevent visitors from entering the building and act like, as one woman said, “its theirs and they can do what they want.”
We are here to say, no, they can’t. Rules apply to owners too. We plan to organize building by building, supporting each other as we demand rightful living conditions. One demand to come out of the meeting is Renewal of Senior Housing Agreements, because that 25-year HUD program from the 1990's is now due to come to an end.
We are planning for action in meetings every Thursday at 5 p.m., before the regular 6 p.m. Detroit Eviction Defense meeting at 2120 Russell. We're also planning future city-wide meetings, time and place to be announced.