Discriminatory Tax Foreclosures

September 02, 2016

African Americans in Wayne County are suffering from a tax foreclosure crisis more severe than any this region has seen since the Great Depression.  But unlike the Great Depression, thousands of homeowners today are at risk of losing their homes for taxes they never should have been required to pay in the first place.  Even though taxes in Michigan must be based on the true cash value of a home, the City of Detroit failed to reduce the tax assessments to match the plummeting values following the Great Recession. 

Also, although homeowners who meet the federal poverty guidelines are excused from paying poverty taxes, Detroit’s process for obtaining the poverty exemption is so convoluted that few people who qualify actually receive the benefit.  These policies have a gross disparate impact on African American homeowners, who are ten times more likely to lose their homes than non-African Americans. 

In July 2016 the ACLU of Michigan, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), and the Covington & Burling law firm filed a Fair Housing Act lawsuit against the City of Detroit and Wayne County.  In September 2016 the judge denied the city’s motion to dismiss the case. 

(MorningSide Community Organization v. Sabree; attorneys include Michael J. Steinberg, Kimberly Buddin, Dan Korobkin, Mark Fancher, Brooke Tucker and Linda Jordan of the ACLU; Coty Montag, Ajmel Quereshi and Josh Rosenthal of LDF; and Shankar Duraiswamy, Wesley Wintermyer, Sarah Tremont, Jason Grimes and Amia Trigg of Covington and Burling.)