“Housing roulette brings blight,” based on a Detroit Free Press investigation, details how tax foreclosure and the annual Wayne County auction leads to further instability throughout Detroit’s neighborhoods. Written by Allie Gross, the analysis of 23 Detroit homes, appearing in the August 19, 2018 issue, reveals how speculators buy up these houses and then allow them to deteriorate. They are frequently swamped from one speculator to another or they offer “rent-to-own” contracts that put the burden of paying the taxes and maintaining the home on the “renter” who rarely manages to avoid eviction whereas speculator collects rent and can walk away.
Summarizing the work of Josh Akers, assistant professor of Geography and Urban Studies at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, and the Free Press study, Gross writes:
“Blight is an active process caused by people, policies and economic interests, rather than the passive phenomenon it’s often made out to be.”
The Free Press notes that the top property speculators include John Hantz, nearly 2,000 properties, Manuel Moroun (1208 properties), Melvin Washington (665 properties), Michael Kelly (534 properties), Dennis Elliott (391 properties), Matthew Tatarian (344 properties), Bert Dearing Jr. (304 properties), Stephen Hagerman (207 properties) and Leslie Coxon (177 properties).
Most of these properties were purchased from the tax foreclosure auction and frequently they are foreclosed on again, but in worse condition than before, and more frequently vacant.
Why does the city continue to foreclose on homeowners instead of helping them maintain their homes and stabilize neighborhoods?