Detroit Overcharged Homeowners $600M From 2010-2016, Many Seek Compensation

Detroit Overcharged Homeowners $600M From 2010-2016, Many Seek Compensation


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Between 2010 and 2016, the majority-Black city of Detroit overtaxed homeowners by at least $600 million.

Although the Michigan Constitution states that no property can be assessed at more than 50 percent of its market value, Detroit assessed 55 percent-to-85 percent of property in violation of that law, The Detroit Free Press reported.

As a result of this overassessment, activists say 100,000 Detroit residents lost their homes in a city of 635,596 people that is 77.9 percent Black.

“You all should have never been put in this position,” said U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, speaking recently to a virtual crowd of 700 Detroiters, many of whom were hurt by the over taxation. “These overassessments were illegal; they were systemic, and they gutted out our neighborhoods.”

City Hall completed a state-ordered reappraisal of every residential property in 2017 to correct the problem, but thousands today still face foreclosure over back taxes, The Detroit News reported.

The Detroit News crunched the numbers and found that of the more than 63,000 Detroit homes with delinquent debt as of last fall, more than 90 percent were overtaxed, by an average of at least $3,700, between 2010 and 2016. 

The over-taxation of Detroit residents has racial overtones and is, in fact, part of a national racial justice problem, according to Bernadette Atuahene, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law who has studied overassessment in Detroit. Atuahene is also part of the Coalition for Property Tax Justice. Wayne County’s majority-Black municipalities include Detroit, Highland Park, and Inkster. Her research found that Black Detroiters have a higher foreclosure rate than mostly-white localities. 

“There are other instances where they take something from you as part of a larger strategy of dehumanization, or infantilization, or a larger process of structural racism,” Atuahene said. “In those instances, I’ve taken more than just your property, I’ve also taken your dignity, and that’s called the dignity-taking. And the idea is to say when this larger harm called the dignity-taking has occurred, mere reparations are not enough. Just giving you compensation for the thing taken is not enough. What’s required is a more robust remedy that I call dignity restoration, and that’s the process of giving you compensation for things taken, but through a process that affirms your humanity and restores your agency.”

“This is the invisible systemic white supremacy that we can’t see, that occurs every day but still has a detrimental effect, no coincidence that Detroit is a majority Black city either,” tweeted Chairman Ken (@TheWIZEKen91).

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In its investigation, the Detroit News also reported that of the over-assessed homes, city records show about 79,000 properties have had the same owner since 2010. This means those homeowners were burdened with the full brunt of the over taxation. And at least 59,000 homes that were overtaxed still have back taxes today—a total of $153 million, which includes interest and fees.


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