County Officials Giving Away Detroit Homes For $500; Taxes Must Be Delinquent

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Wayne County will send people door-to-door to offer thousands of foreclosed Detroit homes for as little as $500, a move that would keep a roof overhead for occupants and possibly get properties back on the tax rolls.

More than 6,000 Detroit homes, foreclosed because taxes weren’t paid, didn’t sell at auction last fall. The county treasurer’s office doesn’t want to see them abandoned and is willing to negotiate with anyone living inside, including owners who no longer have a right to the property.

Wayne County Deputy Treasurer Eric Sabree told WWJ’s Sandra McNeil representatives from his office will make the offer on thousands of delinquent properties.

“A person must prove to us that they are bonafide residents who unfortunately, I am presuming, have been paying their rent to somebody who apparently didn’t pay their delinquent taxes,” Sabree said.

Sabree said there are a number of ways people can prove residence.

“Not only through an authorized state identification card or a driver’s license, a cable … a utility bill — anything of those sorts are reviewed and then a determination is made and a offer to those individuals,” he said.

Sabree said the residents must agree to be monitored for two years to make sure they keep up the property and the taxes on the house. He said it’s a way to stop blight.

“A vacant house is not going to help anybody,” he told The Detroit News.

Charles Brown, 62, said he’s been squatting in his home for about a year. He said he installed windows and doors and uses the fireplace for heat.  “I am still doing a lot of work,” Brown said. “It would mean a lot if I could keep it.”

A neighbor who rents, Freda Armstrong, said she would have purchased Brown’s house at auction.

“That is a brick house. I would have fixed it up,” she said. “A lot of people don’t even know these houses are for sale.”

A similar program last year led to the sale of 1,200 homes. The city of Detroit isn’t endorsing what county tax officials are doing with the real estate. Ed McNeil, who negotiates labor contracts for union-represented city employees, said it seems unfair to reward people when someone in the same neighborhood may never have missed a tax bill.    Indeed, retiree George Philson, 63, pays $1,800 a year.

“I would rather have them meet their obligation like I am meeting my obligation,” he said.

John Mogk, a Wayne State University law professor who studies land issues, said 12,300 Detroit parcels were foreclosed because of unpaid taxes last year.    “There is no end in sight,” Mogk said. “The problem is just so large and overwhelming in Detroit.”

The county’s offer could keep Durand and Sharon Micheau in their bungalow, which was purchased in 2010. They lost it because they couldn’t pay three years of unpaid taxes, fines and interest of $17,900.

“We are not looking to dodge our responsibility,” said Durand, 42. “If I could pay the taxes right now, I would, but I don’t have the money.”

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Smash Crasher

    “We are not looking to dodge our responsibility,” said Durand, 42. “If I could pay the taxes right now, I would, but I don’t have the money.”

    That’s why you should be foreclosed. When’s it going to stop? Why should any of us pay our property taxes?

    • Charles

      Ah, yes… Dealing with the inevitable blight, increased police/fire/ambulance calls, the eventual demolition, years of lost tax revenues, and then and extending tax breaks to developers that will take years or decades to recoup is the much sounder, responsible policy…

      • Bob A

        Whats your solution Charley? Soak the people who pay taxes for the people who don’t?! Another communist who doesn’t understand that socialists always run out of people to steal from, then everyone but the party officials live in poverty!

    • mac

      Wealth redistribution AND plain outright FRAUD by the connected ones!

      • Tom

        Do not feed the animals. They stop foraging for themselves and become democrats.

    • Pauli Gela

      We should not, when our cities are lawless and sanctuary or like Bell, CA.

  • Gebus

    You know the rules are bent when you have to pay rent (property taxes) just to live on Earth.

    • alex

      And would you be the same one to complain if there were no public roads leading to your house or the grocery store, no sewer pipes, no infrastructure, no schools, no police to help you if your in trouble (don’t say “when seconds count, the’re minutes away”), no fire men to help try and save your house, posetions or life if your house burns down? I agree they have become inflated but just try not using any of these services, including water and electricity since they are also taxed, and see how much you like it.

      • Japes Macfarland

        Public or State education has been a disaster overall. Most of property taxes are meant to go for that. Yet the results have only gotten steadily worse and worse since Carter started it. It is run mostly by leftists. The Left has failed at *everything* they’ve ever tried to do. Here in the US and more horrifically in Russia, China, N Korea, etc. 200 million dead in the 20th century alone. The ruining of our kids minds is just another manifestation of this philosophy and value system (secular leftism) As is taxing us to live on earth, even though in our own home. It is symbolically offensive, in a way you leftists can’t comprehend.

      • beebee1

        Why do you assume that only government can provide these services?

      • Bob A

        These government union workers are over paid and should not have their benefits and pensions paid for by the poor taxpayers. Leave it to a liberal to imply that we should get rid of all these services instead of reducing their cost. Communists demand a better living than everyone else. Liberal communists are better than everyone else!

      • alex

        People got by, yes, but I would rather live in 2011 than the 1800’s.

        Would you rather have an outhouse or a flush toilet?
        Clean running tap water and hot water, or well water thats cold and needs to be brought up in a bucket by hand?
        A dirt horse trail or a paved road? Travel 8 Mph or 80? Keep in mind that your Honda, BMW, Audi or Mercades would all not do well on an unmaintained road. Even a Hummer would be uncomfortable for extended drives.

        Again, I am not arguing for more property taxes and would like to see them drop a lot because they should be able to. I am simply pointing out things they pay for that we all use every day.

        With the sherriff of old, also remember that the towns were very small, everyone knew everyone, outsiders were noticed, and people knew who to watch out for. They also had guns and were permitted to use them and carry them (something I think should be permitted much more than currently). One sherriff in the town might work when its a town of 100 but not when there are 1,000,000 in the city. How would you propose paying for law enforcment?

      • alex

        @Voogru – First, While the majority of taxes go to schools, they are not the only use of taxes. At least where I live schools recieve approximately half. The county and the city get the remainder.

        Second, If you had bothered to read more than the first ~20 words (and yeas I do see my typo thank you) of my post you would see I list a series of items, including schools, which your property tax help pay for.

        Third, I am not arguing against property taxes. I am simply listing reasons why they exist and pointing out that if ALL these services were to vanish, I doubt Gebus would be happy. I don’t think that everything the taxes pay for are needed and I think they should be able to be lowered, but I know them to be a necessary evil.

        Forth, if I need to explain it to you, schools are vitally important and, while I hate paying thousands of dollars in school taxes with no kids, I know that without public schools, many would not be able to afford to send there kids to any school (yet they would still have them) so the kids would endup causing even more trouble, both now, when they have nothing to do, and in the future when they are to uneducated and without a work ethic to do anything productive. I do think we should be able to educate better than we do now, fix some of the broken school problems (although some of the problem is broken parents expecting the school to do everything) while spending less.

        Lastly, I am quite sure that the gas tax no longer pays for all road repair and maintenance at the local level. Doesn’t most of the state gas tax go towards maintaining state roads and highways? I know it was designed to but, as cars get better and better gas millage, or go all electric, and road worker wages and concessions go up, the gas tax also must go up accordingly (and that would be an increase over inflation).

      • Frank

        And how did we have those things before government came along? You know, before the states even existed. We had trails. We had sherriffs. Government is just like the mob, skimming off the top.

      • Voogru

        The vast majority of the taxes goes to pay for schools. Roads are paid with GASOLINE TAXES. So your argument against property taxes is dumb.

  • SerfCityHereWeCome

    Nearing the endgame of a half-century of iron-fisted Depressioncrat rule…coming even sooner to a country near you.

  • dean

    If I was a tax paying neighbor I’d quit paying taxes also.

  • Pauli Gela

    More Obama voters getting something for nothing.

  • Ben Dover

    “…and possibly get properties back on the tax rolls.”

    Possibly. But probably not.

    • Bob A

      RRRIIIIIGGGGHHHHTTT! Squatters paying taxes. How stupid!

  • Brian L.

    Heh, one imagines that the “cheap” $500 house will look a lot less cheap when Wayne County comes knocking for $20,000 in back taxes.

    Memo to Wayne County: High tax rates are *directly* responsible for high vacancy rates.

    • Kevin

      “Memo to Wayne County: High tax rates are *directly* responsible for high vacancy rates.”


  • obozosux

    That’s right Detroit. Your city is a cesspool filled with indigents crime and filth, all by products of decades of Democrat rule. When the tax base flees the deplorable conditions and all that remains is a rapacious dependency class, where do the morons in charge turn for the much needed funds to continue the handouts? DUH!!!! Welcome to Obamaville!

  • Dog

    Maybe if the government is starved for “funding” and can’t “zone” cities the economy will become vibrant again.

    People naturally make jobs and wealth only the coercive power of the government can stop that from happening

  • isukusa

    Government is the enemy, freedom is the solution.

  • BigB

    I was at a local Detroit casino over the weekend that was packed as always. My general observation was this is the norm the first weekend of the month. Many at this casino did not look like they could afford to be there, I wonder how many simply cash a government check each month then don’t pay rent and taxes. The city has been in major decline since those casinos were built. What a shame. Detroit used to be such a nice city..

  • Garr Obo

    $500 for a house in Detroit? They’d have to pay ME five hundred.

  • TroyG

    Oh yes, let’s give a house to people who can’t afford them…didn’t we try that recently?
    Besides, giving a free house to trash only results in the house being trashed even worse by people who couldn’t care less.
    Hey stupid government employees…If someone gets something for nothing, they don’t value it.
    This is unbelievable…you toss folks out who can’t pay taxes, and who can’t sell their homes because of your terrible mismanagement of your city, then you give these homes to trash, for nothing.
    You people are what is wrong with Government in America today.

  • Unce Obongo

    $500 is good, but now that I have relocated back to Kenya, we have a special offer at Kenyan Country Terrace Huts at $200 for huts with mud floors and $250 with sun baked dung biscuit tiles. This offers all the amenities of Detroit without the slaughter. Tell a friend. With each Detroit referal, you get wheelbarrow.Yes, we now have the wheel!! Tell a friend.Uncle Obongo, Kenyan Country Terrace HOA mgr….special offer in March, see hut where my nephew Obama was born, no charge.

  • Marc Web

    We should have kept the canal and given them Detroit!

  • rob

    So make your neighborhood a place of crime and unrest, and you can eventually capture it and live there for free. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Clean up the neighborhood and I’m sure those homes will sell closer to market value than $500. And when I say clean the neighborhood up, I’m talking about the crime.


    Property taxes should only be paid when you purchase your house. Not every year and then keep going up & up & up & up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Property Papparazzi

    “Ed McNeil, who negotiates labor contracts for union-represented city employees, said it seems unfair to reward people when someone in the same neighborhood may never have missed a tax bill.”

    But I thought this was the Obama way… to make things more FAIR.. seems the unions are part of the 1% in this case!!

  • craig

    This will be a costly mistake for the City. Once they transfer title to these properties, many of the occupants will never pay a mortgage or pay taxes again. the City will have to go through another costly foreclosure process. thebest thing for detroit to do is demolish as many houses as possible, and corrcet the imbalance between supply and demand.

  • freecheese

    Now I know what Clint Eastwood meant when he said we are in the “Second Half.” This is nothing more than a continuation of the sub-prime mortgage that Banny Fwank and Christopher Dodd should be in prison for.

  • jaline

    According to the Super Bowl commercial with Clint Eastwood, it’s “only half-time in America”, and Detroit is the shining example they used of our nation coming back from the brink. Of course, we taxpayers are the ones who lost billions of dollars bailing them out. If this is an example of “success”, I think we’re in deeper manure than anyone wants to admit.

  • sunnyroberto

    Wait a minute, didn’t I just see a commercial during the Super Bowl, you know, the one with Clint Eastwood, where he said that Detroit was “back”. Is this what he was talking about??

  • Michaelene

    Why not reduce the interest rates on those who have not forclosed to there will be less home reacing the foreclosure point.
    Sell the homes at auction.
    Rewarding those who do not pay their bills is WRONG!

  • Timothy 'Turbo-Tax Cheat' Geithner

    Ah, the Obamessiah is still picking winners and losers.

    Unions win, working taxpayers lose.

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  • Elad

    Yea, I just got a job. I’d be willing to fix up a house if it’s in a decent neighborhood. Oh wait, it’s Detroit. The city that gets permanently trolled by its’ political representatives, a billionaire and a population that’s constantly losing the will to do anything besides apply for food stamps.



  • Ronald Landon

    The Detroit Veterabs Group llc is a company founded by veterans to refurbish hoouses and get them back on the tax rolls. The houses would mainly sold to veterans, but other homeless individuals would be allowed to participate. The main purpose of the project is to put unemployed veterans to work and give them training in the Construction Trades again this program would also be open to non veterans who are interested. We have our congressman Hansen Clarke interested in putting this plan into action, but cant seem to reach anyone at the city or county level who would be willing to stop demoing houses and save the demo money while putting the houses on the market and obtaing 25% of the sale price back into the government treasury. Please if you think that you can help get in touch with me

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