With almost 75% of its citizens registered as Democrats, it’s safe to say that Detroit, Michigan, is a bastion of Democrat power. One would imagine that the city is a land flowing with love, diversity, and unicorns.
The truth is that the city is the total opposite. Five years ago, the city admitted that it had illegally overtaxed homeowners by close to $600 million between 2010 and 2016.
#map of every #Detroit property that reached Wayne County tax foreclosure auction from 2002 – 2016: https://t.co/0TuINGvgtu #maps #dataviz pic.twitter.com/lxolrG7Ic7
— cartogeek (@cartogeek) July 11, 2017
The city inflated the property assessments by more than 85% of its market value. The resulting high property taxes forced an estimated 100,000 property owners, primarily minorities, to lose their homes due to foreclosure.
The Coalition for Property Tax Justice is trying to help homeowners who the city has illegally ripped off. The coalition is trying to find ways for the overtaxed residents to be compensated. They release their findings in a report on April 14th.
In the report, the coalition detailed what losing a home due to the inflated market values meant to the individuals left out in the cold.
Most important, unconstitutional property tax assessments and the corresponding tax foreclosure crisis constituted a dignity taking, which is involuntary property loss accompanied by dehumanization, infantilization, or community destruction. Homeowners lost more than mere bricks and mortar, they lost intergenerational wealth and the emotional landscapes intertwined with their physical property. Consequently, the working group agreed that the foundational principle that should underpin compensation is dignity restoration, which puts dispossessed individuals and communities in the driver’s seat, allowing them to determine how they are made whole. That is, by giving Beneficiaries a menu of options and allowing them to choose how they are made whole, this honors their agency and worth, which is the most crucial aspect in the journey to making citizens and the City whole again.
According to the same report, in 2020, Mayor Duggan proposed a Resolution to compensate individuals harmed by the city’s theft by taxation. On November 24, 2020, the City Council rejected the proposed resolution by a 5-4 vote.
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The Detroit Metro Times reported further on the ongoing scuffle.
Most of the surveyed residents prioritized cash payments as compensation. But that’s likely not going to happen because Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration insists that state law prohibits the city from providing cash payments or tax credits to any of the overtaxed residents.
Activists say they disagree and are calling on Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to give her legal opinion.
“As a lawyer and law professor, I believe the legal logic is flawed,” said Bernadette Atuahene, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law and a member of the Coalition for Property Tax Justice. “There are all kinds of programs where money and resources are going to various individuals. The legal logic, in my professional opinion, is suspect, which is why we need to get the attorney general to weigh in on this.”
Duggan and the city council have tentatively agreed to spend $6 million on resources to residents who were overassessed, which only represents 1% of the amount that was over-billed.
Without the option of providing cash compensation or tax credits, advocates say there are still plenty of alternatives. They include home repair grants, houses or side lots from the Detroit Land Bank, Section 8 vouchers, small business assistance, and employment opportunities.
Wayne County and Detroit officials announce “Pay as You Stay” proposal to eliminate interests and penalties on back property taxes for homeowners. About 31K Detroiters are eligible. Draft legislation to be introduced in Lansing by Rep. Wendell Byrd. @wdet pic.twitter.com/smXDn0xPjF
— Eli Newman (@other_eli) October 9, 2019
Most people don’t realize that you can request a reassessment by the city. They will check out the property and set up a meeting for you to plead your case for a lower assessment. I had to deal with an issue like this for my own house. In my case, I was able to reassess the property for 25% less and thus reduce my taxes substantially.