By Victor L. Walker
Special to the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Homeowners filled Wayne County Circuit Court Judge John H. Gillis’ courtroom March 4 for a hearing to get assistance in making settlements with the Police and Fire Pension Board to keep their homes.
However, no representative for the Pension Board was in attendance and the hearing did not happen as expected. According to Gillis’ clerk, there was a mix up with the date.
The Detroit pension board loaned money to Paramount Holdings to buy properties in the city. Paramount sold these properties but never recorded the deeds. Paramount has since gone out of business and the pension board is suing the homeowners.
Some homeowners — like Kim Pierce and her husband, Steve Bynum — were shocked when they received notice that they were losing their home as a result of back taxes that Paramount Holdings was responsible for.
“I knew there was something wrong from the beginning,” Pierce said. Two months after purchasing her home in 2011, a notice of foreclosure was taped to her door. It said her home had been forfeited for back taxes. She was told in order to get the deed, she had to make an offer.
Pierce described her experience with the Pension Board as a “disgrace.” “I feel like we are still being taken advantage of by the Pension Board. When we met with them, they looked at me as if I was low enough to scratch a snake’s belly. They even questioned the validity of my lawyer, asking if he was a ‘real’ lawyer.”
After months of appealing to the Pension Board and a number of court proceedings, it appears the Board is actively making settlements with some of the homeowners, which will allow them to receive the deeds to their homes and move toward bringing the taxes for the homes current.
“It’s ridiculous that the Pension Board now wants to talk settlements when that is what we wanted from the beginning — the opportunity to make a settlement so we could keep our homes,” Pierce added.
The homeowners are represented in part by Bob Day of Legal Aid and Defender and Ted Phillips of the United Community Housing Coalition, who held a meeting in lieu of the hearing to update them on the settlements. They said the Wayne County treasurer is interested in working with the homeowners on the unpaid back taxes.
Despite the unproductive hearing, the homeowners did not seem defeated and continued to uplift and support each other. “One thing we can say is the work that everyone has done should be applauded,” Day said. “You all have inspired us and show what is possible in the city,” Christian Alexander of the Eviction Defense Coalition said.
Until a settlement has been made with all the affected homeowners, they plan to continue to work and bring attention to this issue. Two demonstrations are being planned for noon on March 20 at the Wayne County Treasurer’s office to get relief on back taxes, and another March 21 at Cadillac Place, 3044 W. Grand Blvd., to ask that federal funds be released to help the homeowners.
Contact Victor Walker through firstname.lastname@example.org