Equity

Nearly 10,000 occupied homes in neighborhoods at foreclosure risk

Foreclosures have the power to take stable neighborhoods and make them unstable. To undo the effects of years of community action and work. To put families with kids out of their homes, sometimes because those families owe as little as a few hundred dollars.

To take what might be livable, or at least salvageable now, and turn it into blight.

The City of Detroit has alerted owners of 62,000 properties, vacant lots and houses that they need to pay back taxes, or they will enter the foreclosure process in 2015.

The Foundation’s Vice President of Social Innovation Chris Uhl talked with Crain’s Detroit Business about why this is such a problematic issue last week. Here’s a portion of that article:

“Compare that (62,000 number) to 89,000 total tax foreclosures in the decade between 2003 and 2013, Skillman Foundation’s Chris Uhl said, quoting from a Detroit Blight Removal Task Force report—and the size of the wave becomes clearer. “Over 90 percent of those properties turned into blighted structures that we now have to take down,” he said.

And that’s of special concern to Skillman — which has invested $80 million over the past eight years in six Detroit neighborhoods slated to see 14,000 of the foreclosures in the coming year. The county is in the process of posting notices on the properties slated for foreclosure, and mailed notices will begin going out next week, David Szymanski, chief deputy treasurer for Wayne County, told my colleague Kirk Pinho.

The foreclosures coming are of “a scale we have not had before,” said Uhl…. Of special concern, Uhl said, is the fact that 37,000 of the properties are occupied, according to data collected through the MotorCity Mapping database developed by Loveland Technologies and Data Driven Detroit.

“If you have this large of a foreclosure issue, you’ll have instability in the neighborhoods,” he said. Foreclosures could lead to evictions, which would uproot children and families across the city. Since 2006, Skillman has been intent on helping lift families and children living in six Detroit neighborhoods: Chadsey/Condon and Vernor in southwest Detroit, Cody/Rouge and Brightmoor on the west side, Central in the middle of the city and Osborn in northeast Detroit. Those neighborhoods are home to 60,000 children, Uhl said. The foreclosures “risk our investments, frankly,” he said.

The numbers can be hard to wrap your head around. But one that is of particular importance is that number of occupied homes. Don’t assume these are simply vacant homes. Some are. Not all.

As Uhl stated, 37,000 properties on the list across the city are occupied. On the left is an infographic that shows the number of estimated occupied homes on the list in the six neighborhoods where the Foundation works.

Nearly 10,000.

You can see how that number is broken down in each neighborhood. On average, each neighborhood has about 1,500 homes that are at risk.

We’ve started a Pinterest board to curate information about the foreclosure crisis. It includes news coverage, databases — including the Why Don’t We Own This? database, the source for our numbers — and links to web sites for people who need help. Two places to get information or reach out for assistance are the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office and United Community Housing Coalition.

Right now, there is active conversation happening about how different stakeholders — from the community to nonprofits, funders and the public and private sectors — can come together to find a set of solutions that makes sense and limits the negative effects of this issue.

Stay tuned for more, and in the meantime, consider sharing this infographic with your networks, so people interested in Detroit’s future post-bankruptcy can be informed about a big problem that is just around the corner.

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