Detroiters fight for justice in a ‘$600 million scandal’

2 mins read

Hike in property taxes forced residents out. Now, they’ve had enough and want justice.

Slowly, but surely, Detroit works to gain some footing after decades of decline, but housing issues have caused serious setbacks for longtime residents. Recently, the Coalition for Property Tax Justice announced a class action lawsuit against the City of Detroit for pushing out low wealth and economically vulnerable families by inflating property taxes.

In their lawsuit, the coalition, which is a collective of several long-standing Detroit grassroots organizations, charge that the city enforced unconstitutional property tax assessments. The organization reveals families whose household incomes fell within the poverty tax exemption were supposed to be protected. They were not. 

Subsequently, thousands have lost their homes, with some who were forced to leave inherited property purchased by the initial waves of their forebears—African American southern migrants who worked in local auto factories.

“There was this woman who was born in her home, senior citizen in her seventies, and loses her home for less than $1,000. I mean, it’s devastating to see something so ripped away from you. But yes, economic stability is so tied to homeownership. And the fact of the matter is, it’s not only what happened here with this tax foreclosure crisis and, you know, I think, illegal taking; is that we also see that big banks, mortgage industry, others, there are still institutional, systemic racism within their processes.”

Said Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) in an interview with Democracy Now who represents the district.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib

| Read the Garcetti-fication of Los Angeles: A Gentrification Cautionary Tale  in Ark Republic’s Gentrification Series |

Detroit, a predominantly African American city with a Black population of 80 percent and with 40 percent of residents living under the poverty line, it also houses a congressional district that is the third poorest in the nation. In spite of the economic challenges of the city, it has been a financial haven for developers who have focused on gentrifying in and around Downtown Detroit.

The coalition points out that a significant portion of foreclosures occurred in and around Downtown Detroit, an area that underwent the most gentrification. Alongside redevelopment, the property taxes increased. According to the Coalition for Property Tax Justice, residences were assessed at prices upwards of 80 percent, bilking residents for $600 million dollars of overages in property taxes.

Added, Detroiters received notices of inflated property taxes after the Wayne County deadline to pay. Rep. Rashida Tlaib says that during her time while working at the legal clinic, Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, 260,000 Detroiters received the notice either late or even past the deadline.

The tax assessment overhaul resulted in a number of Black and poor residents’ homes to be foreclosed. Now, one in four Detroit properties have been subject to property tax foreclosure. 

The coalition lists three demands: 

  1. Stop unconstitutional property tax assessments
  2. Compensate Detroit residents who have already lost their homes through illegal tax foreclosures
  3. Suspend pending property tax foreclosures until it is confirmed that the delinquent taxpayers were not unconstitutionally assessed.

On Monday, February 24, The Pulse Institute will host a forum at Wayne County Community College addressing the issues.

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