DETROIT — Jessie West has lived in the same beleaguered neighborhood on Detroit’s Lower East Side for decades.
West, a 64-year-old retiree and a diabetic who lives on Social Security, doesn’t expect to be living on her block much longer. Although she and her two daughters have paid their $950 monthly rent on time for years, their landlord walked away from the property months ago, never notifying them. In early October, a yellow auction notice tacked to their front door informed them that their home, just blocks from downtown and riverfront developments worth millions of dollars, will be auctioned off by the end of the month. The auction is part of an annual tax foreclosure process that is among the largest any city in the United States has ever conducted.
“They want to get us out of Detroit,” says West, who, like many other city residents, believes the foreclosures target poor people and people of color. “That’s just the truth.”
Wayne County, which encompasses the troubled yet sporadically revitalizing city of Detroit, will auction off her home and nearly 25,000 other parcels of Detroit land because of unpaid property taxes. Roughly 8,000 of the nearly 25,000 parcels up for auction this year are occupied homes, according to Loveland Technologies, a Detroit-based company that has been surveying and mapping the city for years. Thousands of foreclosed homes are at risk of being stripped bare by scrappers, and countless people will be displaced.