In a concentrated effort to reduce the number of foreclosed homes in Wayne County, LOVELAND SURVEYORS VISITED NEARLY 9,000 FORECLOSED HOMES THOUGHT TO BE OCCUPIED.
This survey is part of a broader effort to understand and prevent residential tax foreclosure in the Wayne County and the City of Detroit, which has resulted in thousands of families being displaced and homes vacated.
Over two weeks in June, at the request of Wayne County Treasurer, Eric Sabree, LOVELAND surveyors knocked on the doors of 8,745 foreclosed residences thought to be occupied in the cities of Detroit, Highland Park, and Hamtramck, making direct contact with 1,789 occupants and delivering information to all about options to stay in their home. At least 256 occupants went on payment plans with the county after being visited by surveyors.
LOVELAND hired surveyors referred by community groups from the neighborhoods they would be working in, utilizing their local knowledge and familiarity with the terrain. Using hired surveyors rather than volunteers allowed us to directly invest in the community, as well as organize training and complete the survey more quickly and accurately. Surveyors encountered a wide variety of people, from homeowners to renters, to informal occupants. Each property visited was surveyed for occupancy, condition, and a specific set of questions for occupants.
Keeping occupants at risk of tax foreclosure in their homes is key to stabilizing neighborhoods and city and county finances. Our survey found many recently vacated homes or homes that will soon become vacant that are still in good condition.
By the Numbers:
8,745 Homes Visited
1,789 Occupants Contacted
2,217 Occupied or possibly occupied houses were notified by flyers
256 Occupants went on payment plans after being visited
44% of contacted residents are renters
89% of contacted residents want to stay in the home
We surveyed 8,745 properties over the course of 14 days.
1,789 occupants responded to our survey, a response rate of 20.46%.
When factoring only occupied, partial, and possibly occupied the response rate was 32.47%.
This means that of all of the houses believed to be occupied, or possibly occupied, we reached and made contact with 32% of occupants.
When occupants were not home, flyers were left at houses.
Many occupants were not at home at the time of the survey, most of which took place during the work day. However, evening and weekend surveying did not result in an increase in responses, suggesting that many occupants work irregular shifts.
Overall Residential Occupancy
Occupied: 46%, or 4,006
Unoccupied: 37%, or 3,221
Unknown: 17%, or 1,480
Partial: 0.28%, or 24
RESIDENTIAL Structure Conditions
Good: 43%, or 3,749
Fair: 41%, or 3,612
Poor: 14%, or 1,212
Suggest Demo: 2%, or 158
To determine which properties to visit, we used a combination of data from the Motor City Mapping survey, the Wayne County Treasurer's office, and US Postal Service active mailing addresses. What we found is that the actual occupancy rate for houses was substantially lower than forecasted in all three data sources, by 40 to 51%. At least 585 houses that were occupied within the last year were found to have been vacated.
This raises interesting questions about how recently the houses were vacated, and the connection between the tax foreclosure and vacancy. Further research is needed to determine just how many homes went vacant in the weeks and months leading up to the survey. Also worth taking a deeper look at is the geographic proximity of responses in relation to hardest hit fund zones.
Key conclusions from this survey include:
Direct impact: We spoke to 1,789 people about the tax status of the house they were residing in. After speaking with occupants, at least 256 reached out to the county and got onto payment plans.
We also found that renters accounted for a high number of occupants reached, at 44%. Renters were generally less aware than owners that their house was going into foreclosure. Only 43% of renters were aware of the impending foreclosure, compared to 52% of owner occupants. Extra efforts must be made to reach out to renters directly and in person to prevent them from unexpected property loss.
Making people aware of their tax status and keeping them in their home has long-term social and cost benefits. Nearly 90% of people surveyed expressed a desire to remain in their home. Nearly 50% were interested in owning it. This speaks to the need for programs such as this survey to inform and assist people in staying in their houses. For houses that are being vacated, what is the time when houses are still in fairly good condition and salvageable? Finding ways to secure these houses against scrapping, theft, and vandalism is important to maintaining neighborhood integrity.
LOVELAND cross referenced our archive of tax foreclosures with the city of detroit’s demolition data and found that of the 9,478 properties demolished over the last two years, 8,803 were foreclosed on for delinquent taxes since 2010. Each year, an average of 1,600 homes, or 9.6% that go into foreclosure are vacated and have required demolition. Demolishing a vacant home costs an average of $12,669 dollars. Demolishing another 1,600 homes foreclosed on in 2016 will cost an estimated $20.3 million dollars. Preventing 256 homes from falling into foreclosure will result in at least 25 houses avoiding demolition, a savings of $317,000 this year alone in demolition costs.
This project has also demonstrated the capability of the Wayne County Treasurer and Loveland being able to quickly plan, mobilize, and carry out a large outreach effort with far-reaching positive impact on the county and its residents.