Cityscape

Land bank policies aren't helping homeowners stay put, Freep investigation shows


March 14, 2019, 9:40 AM

The Wayne County Land Bank has come in for scrutiny in recent months, and now, a new investigation has dropped, a Free Press look at how a program has failed to help imperiled homeowners, but enriched developers:

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A Free Press examination of the Wayne County Land Bank’s “Action Before Auction” program, which pulled 240 properties in 2018 and 141 in 2017, raises a host of serious questions. While the program incited cries of favoritism in its first year, because the Land Bank handpicked the first nine developers without issuing an RFP (request for proposal), a deeper look at the program highlights more widespread problems. Despite the Land Bank instituting an application for year two, what exists is an unwieldy and chaotic initiative that promotes itself as an effort to stop the negative consequences of the yearly auction — blight, vacancy, speculation and displacement — but has, in fact, contributed to all four of these phenomena, while enriching developers and giving little-understood financial benefit to the county.

The Action Before Auction program has loopholes that make little sense, including that multi-family properties can't be sold back to the owners that lost them, which disappointed the family in the story's lead anecdote -- who owned a duplex that they owed $1,106 in back taxes on. The duplex was sold instead to a developer, FPJ Investments, which is seeking to evict the family, various members of which have owned in for nearly 30 years. 

Notable takeaways: 

Few occupants have a real shot at reclaiming their homes.

Developers are being sold properties for pennies on the dollar and making significant profits. 

The Wayne County Land Bank is giving developers remarkable flexibility within the program.

Much more at the link above. 

Read more:  Detroit Free Press


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