Politics

Another Blight for Detroit: Property Taxes

In a photo from, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, a demolition sign is posted on a vacant house in southwest Detroit. The actual number of Detroit squatters is unknown, but a real estate agent told the AP that about 30 percent of more than 100 empty homes she has shown to prospective buyers have had evidence that someone was _ or recently had been _ living inside. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
In a photo from, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, a demolition sign is posted on a vacant house in southwest Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

 

(Bloomberg) — Cindy Gresham paid $6,000 cash in 2010 for her Tudor-style house on Detroit’s west side for herself and three children. Now she probably will lose the home, which came with a surprise $8,586 unpaid tax bill that has since tripled.

The brick home is among about 52,000 Detroit properties the city may seize for unpaid taxes on March 31, including as many as a fifth of all occupied homes. Gresham was one of 5,000 homeowners at the city’s Cobo Convention Center last month trying to negotiate payment arrangements for tax balances that are eclipsing the area’s depressed property values.

“The bills keep piling up — you can never get caught up,” said Gresham, an unemployed auto worker whose 8-year-old daughter needs surgery twice a month for a respiratory illness. “An investor can buy it, but it’s worth way more to me because I need this home for my kids.”

Detroit has emerged from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history with new leadership, a downtown restocked with young professionals and a public relations slogan: “America’s Great Comeback City.” While the city core, nestled alongside the Detroit River, is coming alive with corporate workers, foodie hangouts and hipster bars, the nascent renaissance is largely invisible where 95 percent of the population lives.

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