Mar 2, 2020
Detroit residents, angered by reports the City and Wayne County overtaxed homeowners for years due to overassessments on property taxes, are speaking out. Their fight, with the help of community activists, has finally gotten the attention of the local news media, politicians, and legal experts.
The fight gained momentum after the Detroit News pegged the cost to homeowners of the city’s “mistake” at $600 million. The paper also found that at least 96,000 homeowners were overtaxed, of whom 63,000 still have delinquent debt.
Since the report, 500 residents attended a meeting by the activist group Call ‘Em Out to voice their opinions about the rip-off. More than 150 attended a second event held by an anti-poverty think-tank, the PuLSE Institute.
Their fight drew the attention of other activists, including liberal politicians who filed a class-action lawsuit against Detroit, Wayne County and state officials for preventing property owners from appealing their inflated assessments.
In 2017 the State of Michigan ordered the city to conduct a reappraisal of every city property. But the city was allegedly late sending out notices to people of their right to appeal their assessments. Many residents still remain unaware of that right.
Poor residents also have the right to a property tax exemption. Most, again, are unaware of this right. Only about 7600 homeowners got the exemption last year, out of 39,000 who would qualify. This in a city with a 40% poverty rate!
Homeowners and activists are completely right to speak out and fight in every possible way against this incredible injustice. They have rightfully proposed the property tax exemption be applied retroactively. Their outspoken opposition has led Mayor Duggan to at least ask the state legislature to approve a program for partial tax debt relief.
Who should pay for reimbursing those victimized, including those who lost their homes? Certainly not Detroit residents. The banks, corporations and developers who’ve gotten rich by stealing trillions from the city owe that bill. But it will take a continued and much wider fight to make that happen.