By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – City officials understood that getting into the landlord business in partnership with developers would encounter stumbling blocks.
Emergency Manager Brad Coulter said that while there have been reports of homeowners facing foreclosure-initiated evictions, there are options available through county and state assistance.
“From the city’s standpoint we want to find a more effective way to communicate,” Coulter said. “We’re not trying to take advantage of people.”
Lincoln Park has been among Detroit’s inner-ring suburbs that this year began buying tax-foreclosed homes which were then sold to developers.
Dearborn, Taylor and other Downriver communities purchased properties prior to an August auction held by the Wayne County Treasurer’s office.
“The foreclosure crisis and tax auctions were devastating neighborhoods,” Coulter said.
Rather than have the homes sold for a fraction of their value and transformed into unregistered rental properties, city officials saw an opportunity for the homes to be properly renovated and encourage home ownership.
“A number of cities have been doing this to make sure of who’s buying and rehabilitating homes,” Coulter said.
Lincoln Park paid the back taxes on 90 houses in the city – for about $836,000 – which were then sold to JSR Funding LLC for rehabilitation and resale. When successful, the venture enhances the city’s revenue through improved housing values.
Initial titles were transferred in September, Coulter said, and some homeowners reported developer attempts to evict them. Residents appealed to city council for an additional opportunity to save homes for which taxes hadn’t been paid in several years.
“These were all going to auction,” Coulter said. “Once a property goes to foreclosure it’s sent for auction.”
Instead, Coulter said, city officials and JSR Funding met with residents to explore ways of restoring ownership.
“We’ll see. It’s been successful in other cities,” Coulter said. “There are resources for homeowners.”
City officials said residents can explore several options before tax bills become delinquent enough to warrant foreclosure and eviction. Information is available at city hall – 13335 Southfield – or under Public Assistance on the city’s www.lincolnpark.govoffice.com website for programs offered through Wayne Metro, Step Forward Michigan, Southwest Housing Solutions and other agencies.
(James Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)