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3K Detroit homeowners to have back property tax debts cleared


Detroit — About 3,000 Detroit homeowners will have past due property tax bills cleared, the Wayne County Treasurer's Office and the Gilbert Family Foundation announced Wednesday. 

The people who will benefit are enrolled in the city of Detroit's Homeowner's Property Exemption (HOPE) program, officials said.

They were automatically enrolled in the county's Pay As You Stay program, which in turn makes them eligible for the Detroit Tax Relief Fund. No further action is required on their part, the county says.

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The Detroit Tax Relief Fund was formed in March when billionaire business owner Dan Gilbert unveiled his plans to invest $500 million in Detroit neighborhoods over the next decade. The fund pays off the tax debts of low-income Detroiters. 

“By eliminating the need for residents to seek out enrollment in Pay As You Stay on their own, we are streamlining their path to becoming free of their back property tax burden,” Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree said in a statement. 

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“This new program will allow residents to access the help they need, but may not know how to go about applying for," said Laura Grannemann, executive director of the Gilbert Family Foundation, which put $15 million into the tax relief fund. 

The program is administered by Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency. 

Louis Piszker, CEO of Wayne Metro, said the fund "can simplify the path through which low-income Detroit homeowners can be relieved of their back property tax debt forever.”

Last year, the foundation cleared the property tax debts of about 5,000 homeowners who got the HOPE exemption and applied for Pay As You Stay, said Luke Londo, a spokesman for the Gilbert Family Foundation.

Now, 3,000 more HOPE enrollees will have their accounts cleared. The foundation believes about 20,000 Detroit homeowners have back property tax debt and would qualify for the HOPE exemption. The average back debt cleared is $3,600, Londo said. 

About 8,000 residents have been served to date.

Of the remaining 12,000 homeowners who might benefit, but haven't heard of the HOPE exemption or applied for it, Londo said: "Now it's our job to find them."

Detroiters can learn more about the Homeowners Property Exemption Program by calling (313) 244-0474.

jdickson@detroitnews.com