To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#council3-24
Detroiters insist City Council help suspend tax foreclosures, as crisis looms
|Channel 7 covered the March 24 rally at Detroit City Council, & interviewed people fighting to save homes from tax foreclosure.|
On March 24, crowd spoke out for stronger relief
Some 40 people spoke to the Council, urging them to do more to halt the huge tax foreclosure crisis looming over families and neighborhoods.
Councilman Gabe Leland, who got involved at the urging of the Russell Woods-Sullivan neighborhood association, won applause when he blasted the "unscrupulous investors" who take advantage of tax foreclosure. He said that a temporary halt should be considered and distributed a letter he wrote the Mayor urging, among other things, that occupied homes facing foreclosure should be re-assessed "right now."
Fine words that must be followed by action
Council President Brenda Jones agreed that there's "nothing else more pressing to the city" and that "we have to do what we can on foreclosures – we’re actively involved in doing demolition, but when there's a foreclosure, within a matter of weeks – or days –homes are empty, strippers come in... We have to help our citizens to stay in their homes."
10,000 owner-occupied homes slated for foreclosure April 1
Deputy Treasurer Eric Sabree revealed that while 8,200 families have dodged the tax foreclosure bullet by signing payment plans, 10,000 owner-occupied homes are still slated for foreclosure. On March 31, we will press the County to halt those foreclosures.
While many councilors agreed they should "do more," the devil is in the details. People insisted that the city and county pull homes from tax foreclosure while they sort out the errors that led to this crisis. Here's a taste of what was said:
People call out for action
"I challenge treasurer to do what is needed, to keep families in their homes. They can act now. So many families suffering in silence."
"The treasurer has the power to withhold any properties from auction --right now!"
"My partner applied 4 times for help, they sent back his files. An investor bought his home for $1500 and was selling it back to us for $15,000. We made our payments, but he didn’t pay his taxes, and we got foreclosed on. This home has been 64 years in his family."
"Our tax bills are illegal. The assessed and tax value are wrong. We’ve had a Katrina here."
"We’re going to bring the heat of the street to this issue."
"When I was foreclosed on, I had over $5000 in escrow with the city -- but the city didn’t give the money back or apply it to the taxes I owed."
"Remember those homes are occupied by people – seniors and children, families hurting."
"Landlords are supposed to pay a fee – but they're not, and they're kicking people out of their homes."
"I have family members facing foreclosure and I know that it isn’t right."
"You need to call an emergency. $250 million sits there and they want to waste that money tearing down more houses."
"We need to call a state of emergency. It’s time for us to get together. We don’t want to go back to the year of 1957."
"I applied 4 times to Step Forward for help, and they denied me every time. My house been in the family 60 years. We were the first black family in the neighborhood, and now we're all being emptied out of the nei9ghborhood."
"Since the typical household has 2.4 people, at least 24,000 are still facing foreclosure. And those who are in payment plans are still only one payment away from losing their homes."
"$40 million in revolving funds to help with delinquent taxes are being spent to rehab buildings for the county."
"Meanwhile we also have water shutoffs, plans are unaffordable. We need time – a moratorium."
"Blight removal funds have been illegally re-appropriated. $251 million provided for relief is unspent. Join with us to demand more spent to avoid foreclosures."
"We're gong to work very hard to make sure that our residents stay in their homes."
"People have lost homes sold in auction and they didn’t even know about it"
"The City Council should press the county to use the authority they have. Where are these people going to go? It’s a strategy for gentrification."
"I tried to get into a payment plan before being on the foreclosure list – I was denied. Plans should be reasonable & available earlier; and penalties should stop when people enter into a payment plan."
"There are so many reasons for people being foreclosed on."
"This is a slow-moving train. We want to have children whose parents can give them a normal life."
"They’re trying to bring people to Detroit. They might as well say, 'Welcome to Detroit, you can stay 2 hours'.”
"This has been devastating. This has got to stop."
"Even 4-legged animals look out for each other."
"It is essential that the Detroit City Council join with their constituents to hold this city together. We can’t tolerate thousands of hard working people becoming homeless.”
|Russell Woods community leaders convinced Channel 4 news to expose how tax foreclosure looms over an 85-year-old long-time resident.|
Neighborhood brings model resolution
The Russell Woods-Sullivan Area Association is pressing the Council to back its important “Stop the Foreclosures” resolution that could well be a model for other neighborhoods. Read & download it. The resolution demands a moratorium on all Tax Foreclosures “for a minimum of one year" while the government develops "a comprehensive plan to address the extraordinary and devastating number of foreclosures" slated for 2015. As it points out, as many as 100,000 residents have been threatened with foreclosure this year, partly because the government ignored its legal duties.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#burkeswin
Tax foreclosure nightmares - & a victory!
Detroiters fight to save homes from past tax foreclosures
As developers & slumlords take control of our neighborhoods
Daryl and Lula Burke (left) are lifelong Detroiters who just won back their home after a tough struggle they never should have had to fight. They had become victims of tax foreclosure after Daryl, a Vietnam veteran, became gravely ill and didn't get the support he was promised from the Veteran Affairs Dept. How they won.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#taxesruling2015
On Feb. 18 & 19:
Judge okayed new tax foreclosures on thousands of Wayne County families
"Scavenger companies [are] coming into town, buying up properties at foreclosure auctions, and using whatever they can – illegal evictions, tricks and just mass court filings to get people out of their homes.
"No one has really seen anything like it."
Colombo refused to consider hardships & excessive taxes of hundreds who came to object
Several hundred people who had signed objections to having their homes put into tax foreclosure filed into Wayne County Chief Judge Colombo's Courtroom on Feb. 18 and 19. Many told the Judge they had been put into payment plans that they they can't afford.
But despite the many compelling stories people gave describing their medical, economic and familial hardship, Judge Colombo's response to the vast majority of cases was to rule the foreclosure 'granted.'
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#brinkley-combs
Tax foreclosure nightmare:
|Former Motown sax player Kenny Brinkley & his wife Sandi Combs|
Without notice, Calif. company took their home in a tax auction:
Help stop eviction of Brinkley-Combs!
You can help ailing couple save home that's been in family 60 years
Kenny Brinkley and Sandi Combs thought they were on their way to buying back the home they lost in a tax auction in 2010.
|See Fox2 News report on how tax auction buyer threatens to throw Kenny & Sandi out of their home|
Both were trying to recover from hard times -- Kenny is a legendary Motown saxophone player who had triple-bypass heart surgery in 2002, and Sandi lost her full-time job in 2006. They struck a deal with the company that bought their home in 2010 that their monthly payments would go toward buying it back.
They didn't realize the company wasn't paying its taxes until a California company bought their home at last year's tax auctions and immediately moved to evict them.
Judge denied eviction order March 20
When the couple went to court March 20, backed by supporters, Judge Garrett refused to order their eviction. The investor who bought their home had tried to evict them before he even had the title. He is trying to get a new order, however.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#motown-support
Jazz benefit & ruling bolster Motown couple threatened with eviction
|Above: Kenny Brinkley & Sandi Combs, surrounded by supporters who backed them in court on Feb. 20. See excellent Fox2 News story on how they won a delay in eviction proceedings as they organize to save their home.
Right: Cool Aid benefit at Bert's Place Feb. 19 had great jazz music & camaraderie & helped raise money for their fight..
|Photos by Valerie Jean, Bob Ingalls & Jim West|
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#whitfield
Lela Whitfield tries to get jury trial
Meanwhile Fannie Mae lawyers make big bucks as they keep trying to evict her
When Lela Whitfield went back to 36th District Court Oct. 24 - - yet again – to resist Fannie Mae’s drive to evict her from her family home, the judge agreed that Fannie Mae had made mistakes and that the foreclosure of Lela’s home was illegal. But after hours of eviction hearings that began in May, Lela still can't buy back her home .
Thousands of $$, days of court time -- all to destroy a $7000 home -Find out more, Act Now!
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#beasley
Don't let single mom get evicted for reporting violence & medical needs
Lashawn Beasley endangered by big management company
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#taxes2015
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#taxes2015
Up to 37,000 families got tax foreclosure notices this year!
Protesters target high Detroit assessments
|See Fox2 News report & interview with woman in danger of losing her home to tax foreclosure|
|Homeowners decried their high tax assessments on Feb. 10|
Visit our 2015 Tax Foreclosure section to get the low-down & ideas for protecting your friends & neighborhood
A tidal wave of tax foreclosures threatens our city in 2015. Wayne County has already opened the floodgates with a petition to foreclose on 62,000 Detroit properties by April 1.. Read more.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#dexter
Freddie Mac was set to evict in November, but finally gave in to pressure, accepted her offer
A powerful video by Detroit Eviction Defense was part of the pressure that finally shamed this federally-owned mortgage company into halting its senseless drive to evict this family in November. Read about Dexter's courageous stand for justice.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#FHCvictory
Fight vs. unjust evictions wins change in Ferndale Housing Commission policy
Charmonique Hopkins gets to stay in her home, is paid the past rent & bills the Commission had denied her
|More than 60 people showed support for Charmonique at a Rent Party in September.|
On January 21 the Ferndale Housing Commission voted to CHANGE THEIR POLICY which stated they wouldn’t give a housing voucher to anyone attempting to rent a home with a boarded-up house within 3 blocks. This effectively removed Detroit as a housing option, and prevented people who want to live in Detroit from doing so.
They also returned housing vouchers to Ms. Charmonique Hopkins and to Ms. Teresa Benton and made Ms. Hopkins “whole” by paying her back rent and utility bills. This means Ms. Hopkins and her family will remain in their home near Livernois and Fenkell, and it means Ms. Benton and her family can return to the home they had been forced to vacate on Prevost in Detroit. This is an important victory for these women and for the broader community. (See Oakland County115 write-up on the victory.)
But abuses continue
Instead of firing former Director Deb Wilson, who was arrested for breaking into tenants' apartments and stealing prescription drugs, the Commission let her resign, and is now trying to pay her $130,000 in severance. HUD, which we helped alert to the abuses, is investigating. See video.
Organizing makes the difference
The victory was won due to the stand-up efforts of both Ms. Hopkins and Ms. Benton and the solidarity and direct action of Detroit Eviction Defense and Detroit Tenant Defense. Both women spoke eloquently about the struggles they went through, stress and homelessness, the impact on their families caused by the racist actions of Ferndale Housing Commission.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#autumnhouse
Autumn House tenants confront Ferndale HUD abuses
Residents of Ferndale's Autumn House and Section 8 voucher holders met in solidarity March 4 to confront HUD about the abuses and brokenness of the Ferndale Housing Commission under former Ferndale Housing Commissioin director, Deborah Wilson.
Video shows Autumn House residents speaking out on Deborah Wilson. The Board didn't fire her for being caught stealing prescription drugs from tenants, but instead allowed Wilson to step down. On February 18 the board approved giving Wilson a severance settlement of $130,000.
As HUD employee Valerie Sims said in the meeting, "This is just the beginning" for residents fighting back.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#tsehayaparty
Fundraising/ auction dinner party to support eviction victory was wonderful!
|Crowd enjoying performance by Motown's legendary Stubb Girls.|
Thanks to all who came on January 24 & contributed so generously
Homeowners fight eviction
Hernandez family win back money stolen by mortgage impostor
Family fought eviction for over a year, now in talks to buy back home
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#gm-court
29 people stood up for Gratiot McDougall families
At March 6 Circuit Court hearing
At the hearing developer Peter Barclae tried again to get Judge Leslie Kim Smith to let him evict 13 families.
After 29 people stood in support when the case was called, Barclae claimed that he would finally pay the back taxes he owes on the homes, averting tax foreclosure. Judge Smith decided she wanted to meet with the lawyers the next Friday before making her decision. Four days before the meeting Barclae showed his contempt by sending bogus “Termination of Tenancy” notices to the families.
The Judge says she'll give a written decision in April. We urge everyone to keep backing these families in their long, tough battle to save their homes.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#stephens
|Our Oct. 29 picket helped convince Wells Fargo to talk.|
Partial victory, but foreclosure case still looms
The eviction case against this 93-year old woman and her family is now dismissed without prejudice, a key turning point in their seven-year battle to save the home she and her husband bought in 1968.
"We are David going up against Goliath but remember David won the battle!!" says her daughter Denise Stephens, who also gives "Thanks to Detroit Eviction Defense for all you do.
"BUT... we must keep the pressure on Wells Fargo by calling Ms. Marissa Rouse to reverse and expunge the foreclosure," she adds. More information.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#fanniepr
Feds tell Fannie Mae/ Freddie Mac to sell families their homes back at real value!
|See video of Senator Warren blasting Mel Watt for his inaction even after millions of families lost their homes.|
Families now in foreclosure should finally get chance to buy back their homes
With little fanfare, the government finally announced a new policy that should give thousands of families who lost their homes in the foreclosure crisis a chance to buy their homes back at their real market value. See news release. People who bought homes before housing prices crashed (often victimized by proven bank fraud) have been stuck with mortgages worth many times what their homes would sell for today.
As millions of folks who got behind on the inflated payments are foreclosed on, the banks dump their debts onto the federally-owned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- which now control nearly two out of three of the nation's mortgages. Yet for years Fannie and Freddie have stubbornly refused to adjust inflated mortgage values so families could save their homes. It instead spends millions to evict them and then either leaves their homes to be trashed by strippers or sells them at huge discounts to new buyers.
The wounds of that policy are scarring communities across the nation. Eviction Defense and other groups have vigorously called for change – See how we greeted Fannie/Freddy's director Mel Watt when he came to Detroit. Senator Elizabeth Warren also blasted him for his inaction.
Now that change has finally been announced, the key is to make sure people know their new rights , insist on them in courtrooms across the nation, and press for future principle reduction.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#gra-mc
Fundraiser/ Harvest Party for Gratiot McDougall families was packed!
Nov. 22 event to help 12 families fight eviction
Tax auction & foreclosure news
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#meet3-15
|Photo by Valerie Jean|
'Hell No, Detroiters won't go!'
Emergency People's Assembly on tax foreclosures March 14
We and other groups fighting this year's tsunami of tax foreclosures participated in this meeting called by Moratorium Now to plan direct action to save our communities.
Organizers call for:
- A moratorium (halt) on all tax foreclosures and evictions from occupied homes.
- An end to water shut-offs.
- Save homes with OUR tax $$. . . not destroy them!!
They point out that Michigan law gives the Mayor, County Executive and Treasurer, and the Governor, the authority to halt foreclosures and water shut-offs to stop this disaster now. Lansing is sitting on millions of dollars in Hardest Hit Homeowners funds.
For more information, visit Moratorium Now.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#auctions2014
Wayne County's 2014 tax auctions were devastating
Yet they hit just 1/4 as many families as those facing foreclosure now.
Tax bills remain sky-high, yet housing values have plunged.
|Some 40 people came to October speak-out on tax-auction abuses & ways to organize.|
More than 9,000 occupied homes went up for auction in September. One investor alone snapped up 103 properties -- one out of ten sold. When the County then tried to sell the rest — including thousands of family homes — in October, big investors were again big bidders. This year 62,000 properties are slated to be auctioned to the highest bidder.
County Treasurer promotes auction as 'investment opportunity'
Auctions give an opportunity to “vulture” investors to profit off residents and homeowners hit by hardship and unjust tax assessments. But for people who are elderly, sick, laid-off or otherwise facing economic problems, the auction can mean the loss of both a family home and years put into that home.
Many of the investors who buy auctioned homes have a history of neglecting them, contributing to the blight that plagues Detroit and the county. And although they can afford their tax bills, many purposely don't pay taxes when the investment doesn't work out. So after foreclosing, the city can end up without any tax money from the property after all.
Over the last four years thousands of families have lost their homes in the auctions, and the future will drive thousands more out of their houses, so long as this failed tax system is not addressed. Over ¼ of the property in Detroit is “subject to foreclosure,” say researchers.
The foreclosures don't ease the core issues of unreasonable debt, red tape, needless restriction and hard times. The broken property tax system, failed job recovery, increased costs for those on fixed income, and a city bankruptcy that targets pensioners, all continue to fuel this tax foreclosure and eviction explosion. Yet this year, for the first time, State lawmakers want to ban homeowners who got behind on taxes from buying back their own homes at the foreclosure sales.
The last thing we need is more families evicted from their homes in Detroit and Wayne County. Many have nowhere to go. And we see the wreckage of past foreclosures all around us.
Step Forward stepped back
Although Step Forward Michigan, controlled by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), got $498 million in federal money to help families avoid both tax and mortgage foreclosures, they are denying applications for assistance by the thousands (only 30% are approved!), and have made themselves hard to reach. Just 22% of the millions earmarked for distressed homeowners had been spent by the last months of 2013.
At the October 11 "speakout" we sponsored, people told of abuses and how we can fight such abuses as the auctions continue. Flyer outlining some of the issues people raised.
A neighborhood-based movement can demand real changes.
A Hurricane Without Water
Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac feed the foreclosure crisis
These two federal agencies are now responsible for more than 70% of the foreclosures and evictions in this country! Easy-to-read report demystifies the complex world of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and shows how they wreck havoc on our homes and our neighborhoods. Shows how we can fight their destructive practices.
Tenants organize for rights
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#tenants11-14
Tenants plan mutual support
At city-wide meetings
Tenants Defense held its second meeting on November 22. About 50 people attended. We discussed the spread of gentrification and the resulting displacement. This is not just limited to Detroit, but is happening all over the country and in other parts of the world. The media does not report our situations or our stories. It was suggested that we need our own newsletter.
Meetings were also held in December and January, and are now being held on the last Saturday of each month- see details.
Another suggestion was for a telephone tree so that we can call each other for support. No one should have to face a slumlord or an eviction threat alone. We want to organize units in each building and in different areas of the city.
There is a war on the elderly and the poor. One of our goals is that people not be forced out of their homes.
First Tenants Defense meeting drew 50 people
Outrage at property neglect, forcing out tenants
About 50 people came out for the Tenants Defense meeting on October 25 at the International Institute in Detroit.
Young and old, black, white, Latin, Middle Eastern, all were concerned about the effects of gentrification (forcing out low-income residents so richer folks can get the property) and other displacement now happening in Detroit.
They are being pushed out, and feel it! Wealthy property owners like Mike Ilitch and Dan Gilbert, want them out so they can raise rents, let subsidies elapse and cater to younger and whiter renters with more money.
Owners are letting properties go into disrepair and neglect. They don’t clean up trash and flagrantly disregard the law as well as common human decency. Some refuse to accept checks or money orders, insisting on cash only. They prevent visitors from entering the building and act like, as one woman said, “its theirs and they can do what they want.”
We are here to say, no, they can’t. Rules apply to owners too. We plan to organize building by building, supporting each other as we demand rightful living conditions. One demand to come out of the meeting is Renewal of Senior Housing Agreements, because that 25-year HUD program from the 1990's is now due to come to an end.
We are planning for action in meetings every Thursday at 5 p.m., before the regular 6 p.m. Detroit Eviction Defense meeting at 2120 Russell. We're also planning future city-wide meetings, time and place to be announced.
To link to this story copy: detroitevictiondefense.org/index.php#charmonique
|Video tells Charmonique's story - how the strong life she built from tragedy was endangered by cold-hearted policies.|
How Charmonique Hopkins & Teresa Benton won back their homes
Thanks to everyone who supported them!
Detroiter Charmonique Hopkins’ struggle began last May when her family was denied a voucher for a home they had lived in for 7 years. Her newly constructed home was not even inspected before she was denied her voucher, the denial based on a boarded up house within a 3 block radius.
Ms. Hopkins spoke out, contacted media, friends, family and Detroit Eviction Defense. She came to meetings and helped organize a fundraiser at her home, which raised enough money to keep the landlord from kicking her out. She was instrumental in publicizing her case and in organizing family and friends in support. She also leafleted at the Transit Authority and in other Detroit locations for city-wide tenant meetings, which she attended with friends.
Inspired by Charmonique, Teresa Benton also stood up for her rights
This media attention attracted Teresa Benton who had suffered similar injustice from Ferndale Housing Commission. She contacted us and involved herself in the broader struggle. She spoke to the Board and let them know how devastating their decision had been to her family, leaving them to live with various relatives, and in effect, homeless. In her words, they “insulted her intelligence” and questioned her ability to make good decisions for her family.
The Ferndale Housing Commission issued an APOLOGY to both women, asserting that they didn’t realize the harm they had caused. As Bob Day said, there was no problem until Ferndale Housing Commission created one – they were the ones who caused the unnecessary stress and harm faced by these families.
There are still problems experienced by the tenants within buildings run by Ferndale Housing Commission, some of which were brought forward at the board meeting – bedbugs, locked community room, repairs not done in a timely manner. We look forward to working with tenants in their efforts at self-organization.
We also note that the board (all-white) has been challenged more than once as to their composition by tenants of color. We feel tenants and voucher holders should be represented on the board. This would allow problems to be discussed and solved in a more timely fashion. It would be more representative and would be more sensitive to some of the racial issues that are present.
At first they called the police on us!
The first time Detroit Eviction Defense approached the board, they called the police on us and refused to meet with Charmonique Hopkins and her attorney. This past Wednesday showed that diligent organizing and direct action does make a difference!
See strong letter from Hopkins' attorney Bob Day.