There’s no question that clean drinking water and shelter are two of the most basic needs for human survival. But as our investigative comics journalism series has shown, clean drinking water is by no means a given for Detroit residents. Neither, unfortunately, is safe and affordable housing.
The foreclosure crisis currently gripping Detroit hasn’t substantially lessened since it first made headlines a few years back. These days, despite talk of recovery, the city’s still-dwindling population faces a one-in-four chance that a home will be lost to property tax foreclosure. The high volume of foreclosures has helped Wayne County balance a long-struggling budget — and, since 2002, has seized more houses in a single county than JPMorgan Chase did, throughout the entire country, in the same time period. (See the Kurth, Wilkinson and Herberg investigation cited in the endnotes below.)
The United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC), which we visited last month to get a picture of the enormity of the foreclosure crisis, offers some reprieve, providing free services to help clarify a confusing process few understand. Although property tax foreclosures have affected families and individuals in myriad difficult ways, we’ve chosen three stories from our visit to UCHC to kick off our four-strip look at housing in Detroit.
- “Detroit’s Tax Foreclosures Indefensible,” Bernadette Atuahene, Detroit Free Press, September 1, 2016. Accessed June 19, 2017: https://www.freep.com/story/opinion/contributors/2016/09/01/detroits-tax-foreclosures-indefensible/89717644/
- “Sorry we foreclosed your home. But thanks for fixing our budget,” Joel Kurth, Mike Wilkinson, Laura Herberg, Bridge Magazine, June 6, 2017. Accessed June 19, 2017: https://www.bridgemi.com/detroit-journalism-cooperative/sorry-we-foreclosed-your-home-thanks-fixing-our-budget
- “We can do something to stop tax foreclosures,” Jerry Paffendorf, Detroit Free Press, July 7, 2017. Accessed July 8, 2017: https://www.freep.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/07/07/opinion-we-can-do-something-stop-tax-foreclosures/457081001/
- “Detroit: After the Auction,” A Report by Loveland Technologies, 2015. Accessed June 20, 2017: https://makeloveland.com/reports/foreclosure
- Personal interviews with Patricia, The Rapper and John Doe (not his real name) conducted on June 14, 2017. The Rapper agreed to share their story but preferred to remain anonymous. Special thanks are due to Michele Oberholtzer and the United Community Housing Coalition.
- Atuahene, Ibid.
- Atuahene, Ibid. Read the report “Stategraft” (accessed June 20, 2017) at: https://blogs.kentlaw.iit.edu/atuahene/files/2016/08/Stategraft.pdf
- “Detroit, Wayne County bundle properties to fight blight,” Crain’s Detroit Business, October 8, 2014. Accessed June 14, 2017: https://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20141008/NEWS01/141009809/detroit-wayne-county-bundle-properties-to-fight-blight
- “A Blight Bundle Quiz,” The Tricycle Collective, October 12, 2015. Accessed June 19, 2017: https://www.thetricyclecollective.com/2015/10/a-blight-bundle-quiz/
- Kurth, Wilkinson and Herberg, Ibid.
- Mapping the Water Crisis, We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective, 2016. These two points come from the Department of Water and Sewerage of Detroit’s “Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Detroit Water and Sewerge Department (DWSD) Tax Roll Program,” online at https://archive.dwsd.org/downloads_n/customer_service/customer_information/dwsd_tax_roll_faq.pdf
Copyright Anne Elizabeth Moore and Melissa Mendes 2017.