Foreclosure Is Blight!
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/07/2014
Year Published: 2014
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20782
Using her experience working with the Detroit Eviction Defense group, Feeley examines the current housing crisis in Detroit and offers insight into how to combat evictions, foreclosures and underwater mortgages by combining legal defense with direct action.
While the media love to cover stories about the rebounding housing market, the total value of U.S. owner-occupied homes is still $3.6 trillion below what it was eight years ago. Nearly one in five homeowners hold mortgages well above the home's current market value ("underwater"), and therefore are more likely to default. (See "Underwater America," Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, University of California Berkeley report, 2014)
With Detroit's high unemployment rate, median household income of just $26,955 -- about half of the national median -- and 47% of all homeowners with underwater mortgages, our city suffered at least 5,000 mortgage foreclosures in 2013. An equal number are predicted this year. And just as mortgages are well above market value, city property taxes for owner-occupied homes are based on exorbitant assessments. This year 29,000 homeowners have been issued tax foreclosure notices and face their homes being auctioned off in the fall.
Various plans for "revitalizing" Detroit always insist that the city devote a considerable sum to reducing "blight." In fact, ever since the end of the Coleman Young administration, Detroit mayors promise to tear down thousands of blighted homes each year -- and each has done so. But there is no light at the end of the "blight" tunnel as long as evictions continue. Usually within a week of a house being abandoned, scalpers methodically strip it. Many are later set on fire.
The solution: Keep homeowners in their homes by reducing the mortgage and property taxes to market values.