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Group helping Detroiters keep foreclosed homes sets its sights on land bank

Tricycle Collective
via Facebook

People living in homes owned by the Detroit Land Bank Authority should get a chance to buy them back.

That’s the message from the Tricycle Collective, a group that’s been helping Detroit families facing tax foreclosure.

The Tricycle Collective used crowd-source funding to help 10 Detroit families re-purchase their homes through the annual Wayne County tax foreclosure auction this fall.

Now the group has set its sights on occupied homes owned by the city’s land bank, according to Collective founder Michelle Oberholtzer.

Oberholtzer says giving owner-occupants a chance to regain their homes affordably, before they go up for auction, benefits everybody.

“We want warm bodies and caring people in these homes,” Oberholtzer says. “This is a great way to further focus the land bank’s efforts on blight, and transitioning unoccupied buildings. This could be really low-hanging fruit, and an easy win for everyone.”

Oberholtzer says she’s reached out to land bank officials about implementing a policy “whereby all of those properties can be purchased, and handed off to current residents-- people who are going to be good stewards of the home,” she says.

Currently, the land bank doesn’t have a formal process for dealing with the occupied properties in its inventory. But such a policy is in the works, according to land bank spokesman Craig Fahle.

Details are still being worked out, but “our goal is to find ways for people to stay in their homes,” Fahle says.

Under Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the land bank has taken an increasingly active in the city’s efforts to deal with vacant properties and blight, launching a popular online auction and program to sell off tax-reverted or otherwise abandoned properties. However, it does have an unknown number of occupied properties in its inventory.

In the meantime, the city faces a looming foreclosure crisis in the coming year. Almost 75,000 properties in Wayne County have received tax foreclosure notices—about 62,000 in Detroit alone.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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