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Detroit activists file complaints alleging fair housing violations

A neighborhood in Detroit
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio
Houses in a Detroit neighborhood.

Activists in Detroit have accused the city of using tax policies that violate the Fair Housing Act.

They’ve filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights over the alleged violations.

Advocates said some of Detroit’s lowest-value homes are being taxed at a higher rate than more expensive ones – and that some homes are taxed at more than 50% of their value, which violates the state Constitution.

Bernadette Atuahene leads the group Coalition for Property Tax Justice. She said an investigation is necessary because procedural issues are blocking relief for residents.

“We have this overwhelming evidence that the city of Detroit is violating the Michigan State Constitution,” she said. “This evidence has not to this day been heard by a court.”

The complaint says on average, Black and Hispanic homeowners pay a higher property tax rate than whites in Detroit.

Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield said jurisdictions across the state needs to take a hard look at their property tax systems.

“I'm urging that Detroit and other Michigan localities measure whether [their] assessments are equitable every single year, meaning whether people who own low- and high-value homes are being taxed at the same effective rate,” she said. “This is not just the Detroit problem. This is a Michigan problem.”

Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners.
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