Evone Brown, a 55-year-old former machine operator, survives on $850 a month from retirement and disability checks, which wasn't enough to cover the roughly $8,000 she owed in property taxes on her home on the east side of Detroit. This year, because she was at least three years behind on her tax payments (most of which she inherited when she bought the house in 2011), Wayne County's treasurer foreclosed on her. As a result, her house is up for sale this week in Wayne County’s online foreclosure auction, at a starting bid of just $500. She will most likely be evicted this January.
She’s not alone: As Detroit seeks to leave bankruptcy behind and get back on its feet—ramping up development with construction of a light rail and a new hockey arena that will cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars—it is simultaneously bearing witness to a process that could evict up to 142,000 of its residents, many of whom are too poor to pay their property taxes.
Detroit is 83 percent African-American, and 38 percent of its population lives below the poverty line. But the older, blacker Detroit starkly contrasts with a whiter, wealthier new Detroit that's been wooed in by tax breaks and living incentives—which gives these evictions a heavily racial subtext.
“Do you think they are going to take my home away from me?” Brown asks, breaking down in tears. A few feet from her lies her brother, sleeping. He has just come back from the hospital after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Brown herself suffers from arthritis and has mobility issues. A knee-replacement surgery gone wrong last year left her with one leg shorter than the other.