In Detroit, if you’re not paying your water bill at an average delinquent amount of $540, then you’re probably not paying your property taxes either. The average delinquent tax bill for an occupied home is ten times higher than the average water bill — about $5,700 via Detroit’s Why Don’t We Own This? , and Motor City Mapping survey data.
A cruel one-two punch likely awaits a number of Detroiters in the coming months — many who just struggled through the well-publicized water shutoff saga may see their homes enter the annual Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction this September.
As with water, Detroit faces a stark equation when it comes to property tax collection: Survey data via Motor City Mapping shows that 53,000 occupied homes across the city should be tax foreclosed*, owing a total of $375 million in back taxes. There are, via the census, about 2.75 Detroiters per household. So which do we prefer to pursue? Retention of 150,000 residents? Or collection of $375 million?
Some properties in this year’s auction will be purchased by speculators and their inhabitants forced to leave. Other owners may simply throw up their hands after trading water bills for tax bills, and decide it’s time to move on from the city.
Though data has not been made publicly available by the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department, spending some time searching the assessor’s database for names mentioned as having their water shut off in a few recent news articles revealed that nearly all were delinquent on their property taxes, and a few had not paid in the 3+ years, meaning they should, legally, be tax foreclosed.
While draconian water shutoffs have made world headlines, the engine of tax foreclosure has rumbled along for years now in Detroit. 90,000 properties have been tax foreclosed in the city since 2002, yet that number could be eclipsed in a single year were the county to foreclose on all properties eligible for tax foreclosure.
Citywide, there are 99,960 properties that have not paid taxes in more than three years, and should be tax foreclosed. Collectively, they owe $700 million in unpaid taxes (compared to $90 million outstanding in water bills).
At the moment, water shutoffs and tax foreclosures compete to wring blood from a stone.
*Only 22,000 properties will enter this year’s foreclosure auction, due to the way foreclosure is practiced in Wayne County
Out of 42 properties, 21 have been foreclosed, unsold at auction, and are now wards of the City of Detroit. Crazy.
And, oh, what happened to the tree?
There is so much happening in the background of a street in total collapse like this one is:
- $48,000 owed in delinquent property taxes across 9 properties worth an average of $15,000 a piece.
- In March, a firefighter fell through the floor of the house to the right of the burnt yellow structure in the above images. That led to a story about whether or not the city was paying medical bills for injured emergency workers (They were, though there was a pause when the city filed for bankruptcy)
- Demolitions, of which there have been about half a dozen, have not stemmed the tide of arson and exit.
- And fires — Detroit’s averaging about 15 arsons per day the last few years. This block has seen a few of them.
All on one street. The house covered in graffiti actually sold in the 2011 foreclosure auction for $500.
The person, or company, that bought the house — who went by the username “d3lliot” — bought 211 properties in the 2011 foreclosure auction for a TOTAL of $125,000.
This is the whole ballgame for Detroit. It’s bad policies that are destroying the city. Mundane things like real property taxation, assessment, and foreclosure protocols.
The one house with “Help Me Detroit” across the roof could be a community art house? It’s covered in paint in the 2011 image. Hard to tell, but in the Motor City Mapping photo, it looks like it has a tax foreclosure notice taped to the inner door.
It was purchased in the 2012 tax foreclosure auction for $500 by someone with the username “sandra420”.
On this block, 31 properties owe a combined $135,000 property taxes. About $4,300 per house. Does not bode well.