DETROIT (WJBK) - After filing a lawsuit against the city, the ACLU reached a settlement that will benefit many victims of Detroit's foreclosure crisis.
A judge ruling in favor of homeowners who claimed the city over-charged property taxes for years. Since the recession hit in 2008 until now, one in four Detroit property owners have lost their homes to tax foreclosure. This settlement will now allow people to now stay in their homes for a fraction of what they owe.
"I am extremely happy I get to keep my house," said Erica Burrell. "Especially for my grandbabies, so I am really happy they fought for us."
The ACLU is going to bat for thousands of Detroit residents who are in the process of losing their home to tax foreclosure like the Burrell family, who makes around $15,000 a year - well below the federal poverty guidelines. Because of back taxes from the previous owner along with their current mortgage and bills - they couldn't make ends meet.
"I was getting foreclosed on, my house would have taken I would have to go to court and they would evict us," she said. "Now I don't have to do that keep home stay stabilized."
The ACLU sued the city of Detroit back in 2016 for ignoring a state mandated tax break for the poor. Since 2011 countless families lost their homes.
Michael Steinberg, an attorney for the ACLU, claims the city was forcing the homeowners to pay taxes they shouldn't have to pay.
"Nobody knew about the program and the few people that knew about it, had to overcome so may artificial obstacles they didn't get access to it," Steinberg said. "This is about achieving some measure of justice."
In a settlement just reached with the city, those currently in tax foreclosure who qualify for the city's poverty tax exemption - will get to buy their homes back for $1,000.
"This case is a huge win for Detroiters who can remain in their homes and a huge win for the city of Detroit who will have fewer abandoned properties," Steinberg said.
Unfortunately, the program doesn't assist residents who have already lost their homes, but for the estimated 2,000 families like the Burrells in the middle of tax foreclosure - if they follow the proper steps - they will get to afford their homes once again.
"And I get my house back compared to owing right now at this point ... I would be owing them, $11,000," Burrell said. "Since they won I get my house back for $1,000. It is such a big relief."
The ACLU wants to make this clear - it is critical for homeowners who think they may qualify to contact the United Community Housing Coalition immediately. The deadline is July 13.
For those that can't afford $1,000 - a payment plan can be set up to work with you.