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Here we go again: Wayne County starts 2017 auction of tax-foreclosed properties

Tax Foreclosures in Detroit
Kaye LaFond
Michigan Radio

Wayne County will put more than 6,000 properties up for auction online starting this week.

Tuesday kicks off the first round of bidding in the annual sale for the county’s property tax-foreclosed properties. It’s become something of a real estate bonanza in recent years, as the county has foreclosed on tens of thousands of homes since 2009 — and by one count,as many as one in four properties in the entire city of Detroit.

There are significantly fewer properties going to auction this time than in recent years — though as usual, the vast majority are in Detroit. And nearly 30,000 were withdrawn from the foreclosure process before the auction this year.

But critics say most of those people were likely put on payment plans they can’t afford — and the number going to auction is still far too high. Those critics blame elected leaders for continually doing as little as possible about what’s still a housing crisis in Detroit.

The Wayne County Treasurer’s office handles the tax foreclosure process and auction on behalf of the county’s municipalities.

Mario Morrow, a spokesman for Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree, says those criticisms are unfair.

“No one’s pushed into a payment plan,” Morrow said. “But in order to save your house, stay in the home, you’re asked to work out an agreement with the treasurer, just like you would be with any other debt you might have.”

Morrow also points out that state law outlines the foreclosure process for county treasurers — they must foreclose on any properties with delinquent property taxes after three years. Critics reply that with an ongoing problem of this magnitude, treasurers and other elected officials have the authority to take other measures until the larger system can be retooled.

Bidding in the online auction’s first round starts at the cost of back taxes owed on a property. A second round for whatever is left after round one takes place later this fall. Bidding in that round starts at $500.

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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