Detroit homeowners demand action after being overtaxed $600M during Great Recession

From 2011 to 2015, one in four homes in Detroit went into foreclosure because of failure to pay inflated property tax.

$600 million that's how much Detroit homeowners were overtaxed for their properties during the great recession. The issue was exposed in 2020, and now two years later, there's no solution in place to get money back to the people who overpaid, and they're fed up.

DETROITDetroit City Council President Mary Sheffield and other organizations are looking for ways to compensate Detroiters who were overtaxed $600M during the Great Recession.

Many were affected by what’s being called illegal taxation and foreclosures.

“It damaged my health,” said Sonja Bonnett. “It took my kids away from their friends. Out of their schools. It’s a really really bad thing that happens.”

Losing a home because of foreclosure really took a toll on Bonnett, but finding out she was over-taxed was an even harder pill to swallow.

“To learn and find out that it was done illegally and that they were programs you were eligible for that could’ve saved your home really is a maddening process,” Bonnett said.

Sheffield has been working with the Coalition of Property Tax Justice to make up for some of the wrongs homeowners have been hit with in the past.

From 2011 to 2015, one in four homes in Detroit went into foreclosure because of failure to pay inflated property tax.

“I understand this is an issue that touches so many people,” said Sheffield.

At this point, financial compensation and tax credits may be legally out of the question.

But other options are currently being explored.

“We talked about land bank homes,” Sheffield. “We talked about home repair grants. We talked about side lots.”

While nothing is in stone, $6 million have been committed to making some of those program options possible.

Anything at this point is something Bonnett would love to see.

“I’m not saying the current administration did it,” Bonnett said. “But they can be on the right side of history and make it right.”

As officials look into what can be done, calls have been made for Attorney General Dana Nessel to do something about this.

In response, the city’s Chief Financial Officer, Jay Rising, has sent the following statement:

“Neither legislature nor council can change the constitution. And many prior Attorney Generals have recognized this constitutional restriction on spending public money for private purposes. We’d expect this ATtorney General to agree, though the AG’a opinions are not technically binding on local units of government.”

About the Authors:

Victor Williams joined Local 4 News in October of 2019 after working for WOIO in Cleveland, OH, WLOX News in Biloxi, MS, and WBBJ in Jackson, TN. Victor developed a love for journalism after realizing he was a great speaker and writer at an early age.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.