85-year-old Detroit woman fights to pay property taxes

Eula Henley has lived in Russell Woods neighborhood since late 1950s

DETROIT – Eula Henley has lived in the Russell Woods neighborhood on Detroit's west side since the late 1950s. At 85 years old, she is facing homelessness because she can longer afford her property taxes.

The bill is more than $1,600 per year.

"My feeling is the property value has gone down. When I moved over here in 1959 it was really nice. Every house had an elm tree in front," said Henley.

Today, the neighborhood where the Motown singing group, the Supremes, once lived has changed. If Henley sold her house today she would probably only get about $8,000 for it - if that.

Henley is on a five-year payment plan of about $200 a month, plus she has to keep up with her current taxes. If she misses just one payment, her home will be foreclosed and auctioned off.

Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland said the city wants to help. He started a door-to-door campaign to let people know their options.

"There's a crisis in Russell Woods and all options are on the table. I'm committed to looking into how we help everybody," said Leland.

But for Henley and others all over the city of Detroit, they say the help isn't enough and the payment plan doesn't fix the root of the problem.

Errol Jennings is the president of the Russell Woods-Sullivan Area Association. He estimates that there are more than 300 homes facing this same issue in Russell Woods alone. He said the homes haven't been assessed properly.

"How come our residents like Ms. Henley can't get a fresh clean start just like the city did through their bankruptcy?" said Jennings.

"I know residents in this neighborhood would gladly pay their taxes if they could afford it, and the houses just really need to be assessed properly to facilitate that. And if we can do that, I think we'd be on the way to a much better Detroit," said Jennings.

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