FILE - Foreclosure, Detroit

Detroit officials announced Wednesday the city is expanding its Homeowners Property Tax Assistance Program (HPTAP) to include a 25-percent property-tax exemption for some qualifying homeowners in order to reduce foreclosures in the Motor City.

Under the new exemption, a family of two earning $25,703 or a family of four earning $31,930 would be eligible for a 25-percent reduction in their property taxes.

The 25-percent property-tax exemption will increase the number of Motor City residents eligible for financial support who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for previous HPTAP requirements, the city said in a press release.

“For Detroit to succeed, we need to help families stay in their homes,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement. “Thanks to the help of our great community partners, we have made a lot of progress reducing foreclosures by more than 90 percent and getting more Detroiters to apply for property tax exemptions. Expanding access to property tax exemptions will help reach more Detroit families that may be struggling to pay their property tax bills and help them avoid possible foreclosure.”

The program previously offered 50-percent and 100-percent property-tax exemptions to qualifying homeowners, contingent on household income.

For example, a two-person family earning $22,754 or less is eligible for a 50-percent exemption. A two-person family earning $20,246 or less is eligible for a 100-percent tax exemption, according to the city.

The new exemptions could also grant more residents access to the proposed Pay as You Stay (PAYS) program passed by the Michigan House of Representatives in December 2019, which is aimed to provide affordable payment plans for those at risk of foreclosure through eliminated penalties, interest and fees on back taxes.

The PAYS program is credited with assisting an estimated 31,000 Detroit residents avoid foreclosure.

Both programs aim to eliminate financial burdens for homeowners, the city said.

The application period starts Jan. 8, and forms are available by mail, calling 313-224-3035 or emailing assessorspecialprocessing@detroitmi.gov.

“This year we set out to increase the number of Detroit families assisted through HPTAP, and I am proud of our work in collaboration with Quicken Loans Community Fund, United Community Housing Coalition, and community groups to meet this goal,” Chief Financial Officer David Massaron said in a statement.

“I thank everyone for their hard work to reach these Detroiters, but we still have more to do. In 2020, we will advocate for enactment of the Pay As You Stay legislation, and further increase our outreach efforts to prevent occupied foreclosures.”

Detroit approved 30-percent more exemptions in 2019 compared to 2018, an increase from 5,836 to 7,601, according to the city.

That’s almost double the 3,805 exemptions approved in 2014.

The number of occupied home foreclosures has dropped by 94 percent from 9,111 in 2015 to 514 in 2019, according to the city.

“I am pleased that we reached more Detroit households with HPTAP in 2019. I am committed to helping Detroit families avoid tax foreclosure, and HPTAP is an important tool to assisting Detroiters most in need,” City Council Member at Large Janeé Ayers said in a statement.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.