Hearings began Thursday for thousands of homeowners behind on taxes and facing foreclosure in Wayne County, Michigan, at the Cobo Center in Downtown Detroit, according to an announcement from the Cobo Center.
The hearings will continue through Friday and resume Monday, then continue through Friday, February 6.
Last year, Wayne County began an aggressive foreclosure campaign on about 75,000 homeowners who were three years or more behind on their property taxes. About 62,000 of those homes are located in Detroit, and according to some estimates, only about 37,000 of those homes are occupied. The Wayne County Treasurer's office is expecting about 21,000 homeowners delinquent on taxes to appear for hearings. County officials will review each case and discuss assistance options and foreclosure alternatives with each homeowner.
On January 14, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed off on legislation that allows homeowners in the state who are facing financial hardships to work out a payment plan to satisfy their tax obligations and avoid foreclosure.
"Helping homeowners overcome financial hardship and meet their legal responsibilities will help keep families in their homes in a responsible way, lessen the number of vacant buildings and improve public safety while generating tax dollars to provide vital services to city and county residents," Snyder said. "Developing a more transparent foreclosure system also ensures previously foreclosed property does not return to the hands of delinquent taxpayers."
The goal of Wayne County's aggressive foreclosure campaign was not to remove the homeowners from their homes, however; in fact, it designed to help keep people from losing their homes. Of the 56,000 homes for which Wayne County began foreclosure proceedings in 2013, only about 20,000 of them – about 36 percent – actually completed the process, according to Wayne County Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski.
County officials are encouraging those delinquent on their taxes to attend the foreclosure hearings in order to work out a solution that will allow the homeowner to keep his or her home.
"The earlier in the process we contact a distressed taxpayer, the more likely we are to find a successful resolution," Szymanski said. "The earlier we contact them, the more options they have available."