White writer received a free Detroit home that was stolen from a black woman and sold without her consent

When Anne Elizabeth Moore received a free home as part of a writer’s residency program in Detroit in 2016, it seemed too good to be true.

However, as she learned more about how the property came into her life, it became more like a true racist crime story: the house had been sold out less than a 47-year-old woman named Tomeka Langford against his will, part of a trend in Wayne County where municipal authorities aggressively seized Detroit black homes and sold them at foreclosure auctions during the height of the financial crisis.

In 2010, Ms. Langford, a mother of four, bought the house for $ 700 after a previous owner went into mortgage default.

At the time, he knew he could face a property tax backlog of up to $ 10,000 and began a tax bill payment plan, investing approximately $ 8,000 dollars to fix the house and furnish it, hoping to leave the property as a gift for. his children one day.

Then the county stepped in.

In the spring of 2012, while Ms. Langford was casually browsing the county real estate auction site, she saw her house for sale.

That’s how he learned that Wayne County considered the foreclosed home to be thousands behind with back taxes, appearing to defy a process that would normally have taken three years and involved multiple notices. The city said she served Ms. Langford in person and left written notices, but she said she never received these warnings or any guidance from the county treasurer that she was facing foreclosure.

According to a Guardian investigationMs. Langford’s home was appraised and given a tax invoice worth 2,500% more than the price she bought it for, contrary to a state constitutional requirement that tax rates could not exceed 50% of the purchase price of the house.

The constitutional provision suggests that his tax account should have been something like $ 30 for 2010, but instead was $ 1,800.

“You can’t host things,” he told the newspaper. “You can’t believe it, but when you’re the little person, what can you really do? You have nothing to fight with. “

The county insists it has followed the correct procedure.

Foreclosure is part of a broader trend in the city, whose numerous foreclosed and abandoned homes have become an emblem of the financial crisis.

Between 2002 and 2016, some 143,000 homes were foreclosed in the county, over a third of the total real estate stock, most of it for unpaid taxes. according to an analysis by Regrid. During that time, Detroit likely overloaded between 55 and 85 percent of property, according to the Michigan ACLU, leading to 100,000 families losing their homes, many of them low-income black people with household values ​​of less than $ 9,000.

All in all, the city of Detroit may have excessively taxed homeowners up to $ 600 million between 2010 and 2016, leading to an estimated 100,000 homeowners, most of them black, losing their properties. according to Detroit Metro Timetables.

Meanwhile, Wayne County earned $ 421 million in interest and back tax fees during the financial crisis, in Bridge Michigan. relationships.

According to Ms. Moore, the writer, who is white, learned that Ms. Langford only had a title to the house when she ultimately tried to move in and sell the house, getting into a legal battle to silence the title to the property. not knowing that the now defunct writers’ program bought it from the county in the midst of such an uproar.

“This is not a gentrification story, at least, not the way we usually think,” he wrote The Guardian. “It’s the story of a black woman who loses her home to municipal greed, and a white woman who benefits from losing her. It’s a story about the racial wealth gap and how the average white American family amasses nearly eight times the wealth of most black American families.

City Council Chair Mary Sheffield is pushing the Mayor and others for a comprehensive repair program for people driven out of their homes.

“We are working diligently and very hard to find solutions,” he told Metro timetables this summer. “We don’t want to just put a band-aid on and not get to the heart of what happened.”

Housing advocates in Detroit have suggested giving evacuees tax credits, cash compensation, home repair grants, public housing vouchers, job opportunities, or property from city properties.

The Detroit phenomenon is part of a wider legacy of blacks gaining unequal access to the US housing marketthe main form of financial increase and wealth creation for most of the country’s households.

Federal officials intentionally kept black homeowners and neighborhoods out of mid-century lending programs to encourage home ownership in a process called the red line, while Jim Crow segregation and vigilante violence targeted black families and have further hampered housing parity.

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