ACLU: Wayne County and Detroit ‘Causing Human Catastrophe’ with Foreclosures
Trying to stop what could potentially become a new wave of homeless people in Detroit, the ACLU of Michigan and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a class action lawsuit Wednesday to stop the city and county from foreclosing on thousands of homes through a practice it describes as racially discriminatory.
The suit claims authorities have issued “unlawful” tax assessments by failing to adjust bills to accurately reflect lower property values. About 5,600 owner-occupied homes are currently at risk of being foreclosed in Wayne County, and there are likely to be many more in the future, the ACLU said. About 90 percent of the homes in question are in Detroit. (Read the lawsuit)
The ACLU also alleges that the city has denied many requests from poor people for a “poverty tax exemption,” which lowers homeowners’ tax burdens by half or eliminates them all together.
“African-American homeowners in Wayne County are enduring a tax foreclosure crisis of a magnitude not experienced by homeowners in Michigan since the Great Depression,” said the lawsuit filed in Wayne County Circuit Court. “Wayne County and (Treasurer) Eric Sabree…are preparing to seize the homes of thousands of county homeowners — the overwhelmingly majority of whom are African- American — due to their inability to pay property taxes that are magnitudes higher than the taxes that can legally be assessed under Michigan law.”