An innovative Tax Foreclosure Prevention Partnership between the Kalamazoo County Treasurer, LISC, and the City of Kalamazoo reached its ambitious goal of eliminating tax foreclosures on owner-occupied homes in the City of Kalamazoo in 2019.
“This is truly a historic achievement,” said County Treasurer Mary Balkema, adding, “This number has never been zero in any of our lifetimes.”
The program makes use of the County’s existing hardship criteria and one-on-one financial counselling to target those homeowners who have not only the greatest need for assistance, caused by a medical or other catastrophic life event for example, but also the highest likelihood of exiting arrears permanently.
The partnership, which was supported by $80,000 of Foundation for Excellence funding through the City’s partnership with the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), built on the successful 2018 pilot program that resulted in zero tax foreclosures on owner-occupied homes in the Northside Neighborhood.
Mayor Bobby J. Hopewell emphasized that, “The Foundation for Excellence makes a difference in our community every day. We know this from the testimonials from residents who have stayed in their houses because of foreclosure prevention work and the overall reduction in city property tax. The FFE is helping folks and making a difference in our residents’ lives and in our community by keeping people in their homes.”
Program success resulted in part from the door-to-door outreach done by a team of City and County officials, including Treasurer Balkema, Mayor Hopewell, and City Commissioner David Anderson. “In a time of heightened partisanship, this partnership between the City and the County is a real triumph,” said Commissioner Anderson.
The County Treasurer’s activities also had positive results countywide. No one who owns and occupies their home had a hardship form denied. Payment plans were agreed to in all cases. “Kalamazoo County is focused on addressing homelessness and developing affordable housing strategies with all of our partners in the county. The effort to prevent foreclosures and keep families in their homes aligns with our housing focus, and is a notable accomplishment for the entire community,” said County Administrator Tracie Moored.
“We know that keeping people in their homes helps to prevent many of the negative social and economic outcomes that arise from housing insecurity, especially for children and the elderly,” continued Mayor Hopewell. “This is important work that also helps ensure that the youth in our community are not just Promise-eligible, put Promise-ready.”
This foreclosure prevention partnership is intended to continue each year to help avoid all preventable foreclosures in the City of Kalamazoo.