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How Detroit's Foreclosure Auction Fails Homeowners

A new state law designed to foil property-tax scofflaws is making it harder for low-income homeowners to keep their houses.
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Rebecca Cook/Reuters

September marks something of an anti-holiday in Detroit. It’s the month when the Wayne County Treasurer launches its annual Auction of Tax-Foreclosed Properties. For many Wayne County residents, this is the least-wonderful time of the year.

Each September, Wayne County puts up for auction tens of thousands of properties whose owners are more than three years behind on their property taxes. Thousands of these homes are occupied, either by owners or tenants. This year’s auction—which launched on Friday and runs through September 24—includes more than 8,000 homes occupied by an owner or a tenant, according to the county’s own records.