In Detroit, a showdown between progressive lawmakers and the city is taking on racist housing policies that robbed African Americans in Detroit of their homes and widened the racial wealth gap. On Thursday, the Coalition for Property Tax Justice announced a class-action lawsuit against the city of Detroit, Wayne County and the state of Michigan in response to unfair property tax foreclosures. One in four Detroit properties has been subject to property tax foreclosure, a level comparable only to tax foreclosure rates during the Great Depression. According to legal experts, many of the foreclosures were caused by illegally inflated property taxes that violated the state’s constitution, which says that no property can be assessed at more than 50% of its market value. Detroit is now 80% African-American, and 40% of the city’s residents live below the federal poverty line. But as downtown Detroit becomes increasingly gentrified, thousands of the city’s longtime residents, mostly African-American families, have lost their homes to foreclosure for property taxes they should not have been paying in the first place because the poverty tax exemption excuses those in poverty from paying. From Detroit, Michigan, we’re joined by Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who has worked on this lawsuit from before the time she entered Congress, and Bernadette Atuahene, a professor at IIT, Chicago-Kent College of Law, and research professor at the American Bar Foundation. She is a member of the Coalition for Property Tax Justice, and her forthcoming study, to be published in the UC Berkeley Law Review, is titled “Predatory Cities.”
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