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No property (or family) left behind: Working together to fight foreclosures in Wayne County

Foreclosures are an epidemic in Wayne County. This year alone 20,000 properties were up for auction. 8,000 did not sell.

There has to be a way to stop the foreclosure madness. Maybe your house is in foreclosure and you need help before it’s too late.

One of the things to remember is the last thing the county wants is to take someone’s property due to delinquent taxes. That costs all of us money. However, the county needs to collect back taxes.

There is hope for those who’ve fallen behind and the Wayne County Treasury Department has set up ways to help people keep their property.

In the next two weeks the county will start sending out delinquent properties notices. If someone gets a notice, don’t avoid it. Don’t throw put it with the stack of bills or in a drawer. Go to the Treasurer’s office and set up a payment plan at the beginning of December.

Wayne County Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski shared some very useful information at the recent No Property Left Behind meeting.

Did you know money has been allocated through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) to help people who have had financial calamity?

“In June we identified funds that were available through MSHDA,” says Szymanski. “They were TARP (Troubled Assist Relief Program) funds that came from the federal government.”

Thanks to recent legislation change, he says “a couple hundred million dollars” were allocated to Michigan and can be used to help those with delinquent property taxes. Previously, those dollars could only be used by people in default with their mortgages.

Starting January 15, 2013 people can go on to the online portal at MSHDA and put in an application for assistance. You may qualify for a five-year loan to help pay off your back property taxes. Depending on your situation, up to $30,000 may be available.

Another way Szymanski wants to help residents is by setting up a Saturday hours at Wayne County Community College campuses in February so people can have their records checked, set up a payment plan, or make a payment. Those hours and getting to the WCCC campuses are much more convenient for working families. You can click here for locations.

Many positive ideas were brought up during the No Property Left Behind meeting, but I think the best suggestion was to look out for your neighbors. If you see a yellow foreclosure packet posted at their house ask if they need help.  Besides just being a good neighbor there is a very special reason to do this. Unfortunately, illiteracy is an issue in Detroit and some of those individual simply do not understand what they’ve been given.

“Reach out to your neighbors and go and help them understand that newsletter,” says Szymanski. “We have a literacy problem in Detroit that is almost insurmountable. We send out all these notices. People (who can’t read) get them but that doesn’t do them any good unless someone like you asks, ‘Hey, can I help you?’”

Imagine if you didn’t know how to read the packet, let alone anything else.

The bottom line is there has to be a better way to deal with these properties and foreclosures than what’s happening now. That was the subject of the No Property Left Behind meeting where hundreds of people gathered to discuss this pressing issue. It was put together by Curbed Detroit, Huffington Post Detroit, Model D and the Urban Innovation Exchange. People from all sides of the issue attended including tech folks like Jerry Paffendorf of LOVELAND, lots of residents and folks involved with the community and some government officials like Szymanski.

These are the kinds of dialogues we need to have as a community. Kudos to them for putting it together.

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