“I’ve never knocked on someone’s door and they had literally all the information,” UCHC tax foreclosure prevention project coordinator Michele Oberholtzer told a group of volunteers during a Friday training.
Last year, a survey commissioned by the county treasurer's office and conducted by Loveland and UCHC canvassers found that 38 percent of people contacted did not know the property where they lived was facing foreclosure. The survey also found that nearly half of people living in properties slated for foreclosure were renters, many of whom had fallen victim to unscrupulous landlords who never informed them they hadn't been paying taxes on the home.
Information UCHC is hoping to share during this year's canvasing effort includes a new reduced-interest program for homeowners that drops fees on taxes owed from 18 percent to 6 percent. They'll also be telling residents about a poverty exemption, which Oberholtzer says goes underutilized in Detroit, where 40 percent of people live in poverty. Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree was actually named in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union that alleges his office improperly denied some Detroiters the exemption. The case against Sabree was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds but is now on appeal.
As UCHC works to help people in tax-foreclosed properties keep a roof over their heads, Loveland has proposed overhauling the system that allows such homes to be sold in the first place. The plan would require bundling all occupied homes into one unbuyable block and passing them through the auction to authorized organizations who can help with the occupants buy or stay in their homes. The working proposal is outlined in a Google Doc called:
UCHC, meanwhile, is continuing to accept volunteers. Those who decide to help out will be eligible for compensation.