Helping a House Remain a Home
Sec. 211.7u. of Michigan’s General Property Tax Act requires local governments to make a property tax exemption available for owner-occupants who are unable to contribute to public charges by reason of poverty. In Detroit, local implementation of this act is referred to as the Homeowner’s Property Exemption (HOPE), formerly known as the Homeowner's Property Tax Assistance Program (HPTAP). By eliminating or reducing property tax burden among grantees, HOPE can serve a critical role in alleviating housing costs and preventing foreclosure among homeowners with low- or fixed- incomes, as well as those experiencing periods of financial hardship. Despite these benefits, HOPE remains severely underutilized by eligible homeowners.
In 2017, researchers from the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions partnered with the United Community Housing Coalition’s (UCHC) Tax Foreclosure Prevention Project to study this policy’s implementation in Detroit. The objective of this study is to better understand and address the barriers and pathways to HPTAP utilization among eligible homeowners in need of property tax assistance, with the goal of informing best practices across the state.
This research study evaluated government documents and homeowner interviews to examine barriers to access tax foreclosure assistance in Detroit, Michigan. Institutional barriers included limited awareness, a lack of information available about the program, application complexity, mobility restriction, and administrative accountability.