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Tricycles and crowdsourcing help Detroiters stay in foreclosed homes

Charles & Adrienne Esseltine / Flickr

Ten Detroit families still have their own roofs over their heads, thanks to the Tricycle Collective.

The group crowdsourced money so the families could bid on the homes they were living in at a tax foreclosure auction.

Michele Oberholtzer started the collective.

Oberholtzer says until she contacted them, the families had no idea they could buy their tax-foreclosed homes – often for as little as $500.

"People were planning on moving out, or people may have known about the auction but didn't know they could participate, or had never owned a property in the first place," she says.

Oberholtzer says in some cases, the families didn't even know their homes were going to be sold at auction.  That's because they were renting, and their landlords hadn't told them what was going to happen.

She says more publicity about the auctions could prevent more homes from becoming blighted properties.

Oberholtzer got the idea for the project while working on a census of homes in Detroit that were being foreclosed for unpaid property taxes.

She discovered about 10,000 of the roughly 25,000 homes in the census had signs of people living in them.

Families were selected for the project because they had tricycles in the front yard – a sign that children were living there.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.