Apr 18, 2023 - News

Overtaxed Detroit homeowners get some help

Illustration of a house surrounded by angry emojis with dollar sign eyes and tongue

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Homeowners overtaxed by $600 million after the Great Recession are getting some relief under new city subsidies.

Why it matters: From 2009-16, the city failed to accurately decrease property values, resulting in tens of thousands of homes being overtaxed by at least $600 million, according to a 2020 News exposé.

  • City attorneys have since said it would be illegal to make affected homeowners whole by writing them a check as restitution.
  • Years later, the overtaxation remains an open sore with residents and housing advocates demanding justice.

Driving the news: The new city budget includes $4 million for an overassessment program providing subsidies for property bought from the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

  • That's on top of $2 million previously set aside for the program.

What they're saying: The funding is but a Band-Aid for egregious overassessments that contributed to property tax foreclosures that plagued the city, advocates say.

  • "We think it is a fraction of the money that is owed to Detroiters and taxpayers from the time of the overassessment," Scott Holiday, political director of housing justice nonprofit Detroit Action, tells Axios.

The other side: Other local assistance programs have tried to help keep residents in their homes, including Pay As You Stay, which reduces past due property taxes, and the Homeowners Property Exemption, per the News.

State of play: The city's overassessment program is available to current residents who bought their property before 2009 and lived in and paid taxes on that property from 2009-16.

Between the lines: The new city funding will create 50% discounts for affected homeowners toward the purchase of Land Bank auction houses or side lots.

What's next: City Council President Mary Sheffield told the News that more help for overtaxed Detroiters, such as tax credits, needs to come from state lawmakers

  • "I don't want people to think this is the end-all solution," Sheffield said. "We all have to be creative to figure out how we can address this issue."
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