Thousands of Detroit-area homeowners try to stop foreclosure

AP News
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Posted: Mar 31, 2015 2:58 PM
Thousands of Detroit-area homeowners try to stop foreclosure

DETROIT (AP) — More than 13,000 Detroit-area property owners have entered into payment plans hoping to avoid losing their homes to tax foreclosure, but another 16,000 living in their homes have yet to take advantage of the offer ahead of Tuesday's deadline.

Hundreds of applicants sat in a hotel ballroom waiting for the chance to plead their cases before Wayne County Treasury workers, with many lining up before 7 a.m. to be heard before the 4:30 p.m. Tuesday deadline.

"I'm downhill and I can't get out," said Kevin Franklyn, who was waiting his turn to see if the more than $15,000 he owes on his home and a dozen or so rental properties can be turned into something more manageable.

"I'm going to try to pay what I can," said Franklyn, 46, who blamed his tenants' nonpayment of rent for his struggles.

More than 60,000 of the county's 76,000 foreclosed properties are in Detroit, threatening neighborhoods hard hit by the national mortgage crisis. About $326 million in taxes, interest and fees are owed on the foreclosed homes, lots and other buildings in Detroit.

City officials fear that more foreclosures will only add to the glut of vacant houses in Detroit and blight that keeps potential homebuyers away.

Taxes have been paid in full for about 20,700 of the foreclosed properties, partly through the payment plan, according to Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski.

Of the 38,100 properties still facing foreclosure, only 15,900 are occupied.

"Those are the ones we want to get to," Szymanski said. The county has to collect property taxes by law.

City and county officials urged state lawmakers to pass foreclosure prevention bills and Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation in January to provide homeowners facing financial hardship with the option to sign up for a payment plan to avoid foreclosure. The bills also cut interest rates, reduced down payments and capped past due taxes.

Szymanski said more than 13,000 homeowners have entered into payment assistance plans already.

Bryan Ely, 28, of Detroit, said he owes about $20,000 in back taxes on his home on Detroit's northwest side.

"I lost my job in 2013 and my taxes were too high to begin with," he said, added that complacency and not being aware of his options brought him up to the deadline.

Latasha Peoples hopes never to fall into a position where she gets behind again. Peoples, 34, said a "job issue" put her about $900 behind in property taxes on her home. On Tuesday, she agreed to pay $112 down and $50 each month until she is caught up.

"They just offered me the plan and that's what I took," she said. "It's better than losing your house."