Why should they? The street lights don’t work. Police don’t respond. The streets are in disrepair. Their neighbors don’t pay. Even are walking away, not even trying to foreclose on deadbeats and then resell. Who will buy?

It’s too tempting to say it’s the US in microcosm, and the answer would better be: not yet. But if nothing changes…

85-year-old Leola Wesley is the only property owner paying on her block out of 32 parcels. There are 76 other blocks in Wayne County where only one person is paying their taxes. Says Wesley:

It makes me not want to pay. If nobody else is paying, why should I?

There are so many empty houses, there’s nobody to pay. I’d like to know what is going to be the solution.

Wayne County issues bonds to Detroit to pay what it owes, and then hopes to redeem the bonds by foreclosing on delinquent properties and reselling them. But that’s not working, either, because there are so many foreclosures they can’t keep up: 40,000 properties now, and more every day. So far the county owes $300 million in bonds that it can’t redeem.

The are “walking away” too – some 500 bank-owned properties – REOs they call them – have been abandoned by the banks. They don’t even bother to keep the places secure in the hopes of a buyer. Why would they?

There are precious few buyers and when they show up, they’re assessed up to 10 times what the properties are worth. Some are re-buying their own properties in order to avoid the taxes:

Property owners increasingly are re-buying their land in tax-foreclosure  auctions and legally erasing their debts. Last year, 600 properties were  re-purchased by their owners, triple the number in 2010. That cost the city  nearly $6 million in unpaid taxes.

Ricardo Kisner, who did pay his taxes, asks the unanswerable question: “Am I the stupid one?”

Detroit: the death of a once-great city.













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