A white writer was given a free house in Detroit that was taken from a black woman and sold without her consent

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

However, as she learned more about how the property had come into her life, it sounded more like a real race crime story: the house had been sold under a 47-year-old woman named Tomeka Langford against his will, part of a trend in Wayne County of city officials aggressively seizing Black Detroiters’ homes and selling 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 suffered a mortgage default.

At the time, she knew she could face a property tax bill of up to $10,000 and started a tax bill payment plan, while investing around $8,000 to fix it. the house and furnish it, hoping to leave the property. as a gift to her children one day.

Then the county stepped in.

In the spring of 2012, as Ms Langford casually browsed the county’s real estate auction site, she saw her own home for sale.

That’s how she learned that Wayne County was considering the home foreclosed for being thousands behind on back taxes, appearing to defy a process that was normally supposed to take three years and involve multiple notices. The city said it served Ms Langford in person and left written notices, but said it never received those warnings or any indication from the county treasurer that she was at risk of seizure.

According a Guardian investigationMrs. Langford’s home has been appraised and a resulting tax bill worth 2,500% more than the price she bought it for, flies in the face of a state constitutional requirement that rates appraisal cannot exceed 50% of the purchase price of the home.

The constitutional provision suggests his tax bill should have been around $30 for 2010, but was instead $1,800.

“You can’t host stuff,” she told the newspaper. “You may not believe it, but when you’re a little person, what can you really do? You have nothing to fight against.

The county insists it followed proper procedure.

The foreclosure is part of a wider trend in the city, whose many foreclosed and abandoned homes have become an emblem of the financial crisis.

Between 2002 and 2016, approximately 143,000 homes were foreclosed in the county, more than a third of the total housing stock, mostly for unpaid taxes, according to an analysis by Regrid. During that time, Detroit likely overtaxed between 55 and 85 percent of properties, according to the ACLU of Michigan, leading to 100,000 families losing their homes, many of them low-income people of color whose value was lower. at $9,000.

In total, the city of Detroit may have overtaxed homeowners by up to $600 million between 2010 and 2016, leading to an estimated 100,000 mostly black homeowners losing their properties, according to Detroit Metro timetable.

Meanwhile, Wayne County earned $421 million in interest and charges on back taxes during the financial crisis, Bridge Michigan reports.

According to Ms Moore, the writer, who is white, she only learned that Ms Langford had title to the house when she eventually sought to move out and sell the house, starting a legal battle to have the title silenced. property, not knowing that the now-defunct writer’s program purchased it from the county amid such turmoil.

“It’s not a story of gentrification – at least not the way we usually think of it,” she wrote in The Guardian. “This is the story of a black woman who loses her home to municipal greed and a white woman who benefits from her loss. It’s a story about the racial wealth gap and how the median white American household accumulates almost eight times the wealth of most black American households.

City Council President Mary Sheffield is pushing the mayor and others to put in place a comprehensive reparations program for those evicted from their homes.

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

Housing advocates in Detroit have suggested giving displaced people tax credits, cash compensation, housing repair grants, public housing vouchers, job opportunities or property themselves. same from city assets.

The phenomenon in Detroit is part of a greatest legacy of blacks having unequal access to the US housing marketthe main form of financial improvement and wealth creation for most families in the country.

Federal authorities intentionally kept black homeowners and neighborhoods out of mid-century loan programs to encourage homeownership in a process called red-lining, while Jim Crow segregation and vigilante violence targeted black families and further hampered equality of housing.

Christy J. Olson