Tlaib, activists call for state probe of tax assessments in Detroit


US Representative Rashida Tlaib and local attorneys call on Governor Gretchen Whitmer to investigate the overvaluation of property tax in Detroit.

Tlaib, D-Detroit, said during a #BlackHomesMatter billing livestream city hall that proponents are seeking an end to “racial property tax administration” in a country “set against color communities like ours.”

The organizers encouraged those who registered to sign an online petition and tweets Whitmer asking them to investigate Detroit’s “illegally inflated” property taxes.

Tlaib joined Harvard University professor and activist Cornel West, and Rev. Dr. William Barber II, Co-Chair of the Campaign of the Poor, who were introduced as speakers.

Detroit did not exactly cut real estate values ​​in the years following the Great Recession. As a result, the city overwhelmed homeowners by at least $ 600 million, a January 2020 investigation by The Detroit News found.

“We’re going to start having these town halls to tell the truth about what happened to thousands of our Detroit neighbors who lost their homes because they were denied their rights,” Tlaib said. “Shame on those who continue to pretend this never happened.”

Detroit completed a state-mandated revaluation of all residential properties worth $ 10 million in 2017 to address the overvaluation issue. Yet thousands of Detroiters faced foreclosure of back tax payments.

Of the more than 63,000 homes in Detroit with criminal debt in the fall of 2019, The News calculated that between 2010 and 2016, more than 90% were overwhelmed by an average of at least $ 3,700. The debt for about 40,000 of these homes is less than the properties that were overwhelmed during those seven years, the research found.

Detroit City Council rejected a resolution this fall giving local residents who may have been overwhelmed before 2014 priority over affordable housing, discounts on home purchases and job opportunities, as the majority of members said the proposal didn’t go far enough.

The plan did not bring significant relief, some councilors and critics said. An attempt was made to compensate for possible overloads from 2010 to 2013.

The government of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan drafted the ordinance, which included eight programs to be funded with $ 6 million from the city’s fiscal 2020 budget. It would have given priority to residents who may have been overwhelmed with affordable housing, discounts on home purchases, and job opportunities. Priority access would have been available for affected homeowners until 2024.

Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield, who has fought alongside the coalition for property tax justice, said the proposed three-year period was too limited.

Coalition law professor Bernadette Atuahene has argued that the city wanted to address tax issues between 2010 and 2013 in order to help Duggan, who took office in January 2014, “avert political responsibility”.

Bernadette Atuahene, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, sings with protesters during a press conference at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in Detroit on Feb.13, 2020 to announce a class action lawsuit against the city for over appraisal of home values ​​for thousands of homeowners .

On Wednesday, Atuahene said there is no neighborhood in the city that has not been affected by the property tax foreclosure issue.

“We locally call this a hurricane without water because there are many evictions and dispositions,” said Atuahene, who has co-authored studies on urban foreclosures.

Atuahene said proponents want Duggan to build a fund to compensate overworked Detroiters and that Wayne County should stop foreclosures until systematic property tax overvaluations are resolved.

So far, the State Tax Commission and Whitmer have denied requests for investigation, she said. Whitmer’s office did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Sheffield on Wednesday reiterated its earlier recommendation that a state task force was needed “to see how we got here”.

“We need to get to the root of the matter,” Sheffield told the forum, adding that an agreement between the council and the administration on a proposal that will relieve overburdened homeowners is a priority.

The city council said the gap between house prices and valuations was largely closed in 2014 when Duggan cut valuations by more than 20% after taking office, despite real estate values ​​rising at the time.

Conrad Mallet Jr., who was named Deputy Mayor of Detroit in the spring, said Wednesday he doesn’t think Detroit is still overrated, but said assessments vary by neighborhood. If Whitmer believes Detroit can do more in partnership at the state level, the city is open to these discussions.

“If the state came in and checked what we were doing, they would find that we are doing more, that we are doing better, and that the circumstances they left us in when they left in 2017 are better than they were ,” he said. We are not concerned about further government oversight, but we are not concerned. “

Mallett noted that in 2017 the Michigan Tax Commission relinquished its control over real estate revaluation in Detroit and the city has seven real estate tax relief programs.

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