The special House Committee on Detroit’s Recovery and Michigan’s Future convened earlier this year to consider the so-called “grand bargain” bills related to the city’s bankruptcy. Today, the panel met again and passed along a bill to the full House that would allow municipalities to crackdown on land speculators and other property owners who are delinquent on property taxes.
Meanwhile, WDET’s Sandra Svoboda spoke with committee chair Rep. John Walsh (R-Livonia). Here’s what they said:
JW: One is really highly technical in nature. One of the bills that passed out of the committee back in May-June timeframe had some corrections that we needed to make so it’s appropriate to come back to the committee and do that. While we’re there, since I had to post for that, I have another bill that I’ve introduced that will address the issue of people who can bid on tax-foreclosed properties. We’re going to take up both bills up at the same time.
SS: What changes does the bill on tax foreclosures make?
JW: The bottom line simply is if you are attempting to purchase tax-foreclosed property at an auction, you cannot bid if you own other tax foreclosed property. So the cycle in Detroit, and I’m told in other jurisdictions, is that we have land speculators for lack of a better word, out trying to buy property, and maybe they make use of some of it and drop others. But there’s this cycle of people who have habitually abused this process, let their property fallow, failed to pay taxes, and then yet they’re bidding on other tax foreclosed property so the hope here is to gain a higher quality bidder, somebody that actually is going to not only honor their obligation on the purchase but to make tax payments on it moving forward.
SS: To what extent has the existing situation contributed to Detroit’s financial crisis or even the bankruptcy?
JW: In terms of the financial crisis it goes to that bottom line of who’s paying taxes in Detroit and who isn’t. Are properties falling fallow and into blight because people aren’t maintaining them, they’re dispensing of them. Finding responsible owners that can paying their taxes is the goal and I think ultimately contributes to the health of the city.
SS: What are you hearing from your fellow representative, are they in favor, do they have questions or concerns? What’s the mood on this bill?
JW: There have been no specific questions or concerns raised. People are waiting for the hearing to learn more. I just introduced the bill a couple of weeks ago but I do expect it to pass. I have spoken with committee members. They don’t have any questions pending testimony. Barring anything that is dramatic, I think we’ll be able to move the bill to the floor.