Officials from the Wayne County, Michigan, treasury office assisted more than 4,000 homeowners delinquent on taxes with various plans to avoid foreclosure during the county's recent show cause hearings, according to Wayne County Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski.
Wayne County hosted two events over a week and a half in late January and early February to assist homeowners who are three years or more behind on their taxes and facing foreclosure. Approximately 4,000 homeowners turned out to Detroit's Cobo Center during the seven-day show cause hearings that ended Friday, February 6, and another 700 came out for another event on February 7 at Wayne County Community College.
County officials reviewed each case and discussed assistance options and foreclosure alternatives with each homeowner who turned out. Of the 4,700 homeowners who came out for both events, Szymanski said about 90 percent of them were able to work out various payment plans to keep their homes. The plans will go into effect as soon as the homeowners get the funds for the down payment and pay the county treasurer's office, which they are expected to do this week and next week, according to Szymanski.
"As to those remaining, we continue to work with taxpayers at our offices and in different events," Szymanski said. "We are coordinating with United Way and an army of organizations and volunteers to reach out to those remaining. The most frequent and difficult impediment to avoiding foreclosure is lack of participation by the taxpayer. This effort to reach taxpayers is unprecedented and the process is ongoing in implementation and development. Our hope is to reach the owner or occupant of every occupied residential property first, and then continue to reach all 'others.'"
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 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 Szymanski.
The two recent events came just two weeks after 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.