GENESEE COUNTY, MI – A former Catholic church and an entire mobile home park are among the more than 5,000 properties in Genesee County that are in danger of falling into public hands for failure to pay taxes.
Property owners behind on their 2013 taxes had until March 1 to pay before their parcels go into a forfeiture process, and they have 13 months to settle their tax debts, plus interest, or make payment arrangements before they lose their property.
Those with back payments to 2012 face a stiff penalty and a one-month deadline.
“Anything that people owed the 2012 taxes and if they have not come in and made an arrangement with us and not paid, then they would be foreclosed on after March 31,” said county Treasurer Deb Cherry.
Delinquencies range from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands of dollars, such as the former Catholic church listed in county records as Gods City of Refuge Flint at 500 W. Pierson Road, which owes $160,411.38 in taxes.
The property was founded as the St. Agnes Parish in 1928. “We do not own that property” now, said Michael Diebold, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Lansing.
“St. Agnes Parish closed in 2008,” he said. The parish has been merged with Sacred Heart and St. Luke in Flint and formed a new home at St. John Vianney Parish on Bagley Street.
He said following the closure of St, Agnes, “It sold pretty quickly.” Diebold was not able to provide further information on the new owner. A phone number listed for the building is disconnected.
One of the largest delinquent amounts on the county list of more than 5,000 properties – half of which Cherry said are likely to go into foreclosure – is Dutch Village Mobile Home Park in Genesee Township.
“A long way back,” said township Treasurer Tom Mannor, of tax issues with the Mt. Morris Road park. Mannor said there is an agreement in place for tax payments with the park. With the agreement in place, the property is not at risk for foreclosure.
Amos Allinger, CEO of Allinger Properties LLC, said the company purchased the property in 2010 with $1.2 million in back taxes and went through Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2012.
The company owing the park has agreed to pay $10,000 a month to Genesee County for taxes, $7,000 for water and pays $7,500 monthly in mortgage payments, Allinger said.
Township Clerk Wayne Bates said the massive county list includes around 250 properties in the northern Genesee County community, down some from three or four years ago.
“We pick and choose which ones we want” to keep in township hands, said Bates, with the township board either accepting or rejecting the properties. “Complete (demolitions), we don’t want to be responsible for those.”
Foreclosed parcels may become available for sale by auction after July 2015. Municipalities are given a chance to request a parcel prior to the open auction.
Bates noted some communities, including Genesee Township and Burton – where council members recently voted to approve bids on 11 tax-reverted buildings and six vacant lots for a total of $51,406 – have been keeping some of the properties.
“It’s about half,” said Bates, adding if properties go to the Genesee County Land Bank, the township would lose out on 50 percent of taxes on that land for five years. “We have properties they are still living in and viable houses.”
“What’s best for the township?” is one of the questions township officials ask when considering whether to take a property before auction, Bates said. “Do we just want to let the Land Bank have them? Not the good ones.”
“These are citizens of the township. We try to work with them as much as we can,” he said.
Cherry said homestead properties may request a one-year hardship foreclosure postponement. A 10 percent payment on taxes and interest due is required following approval, according to the petition.
Interest amounts can vary from 6 percent to as much as 18 percent on delinquent taxes, dependent on the length of non-payment, but Cherry said state laws passed at the end of 2014 could be used to help with costs.
“We could lower it to 12 percent, or in some very rare cases, 6 percent,” she said of the mounting interest amounts. House Bill 4882 allows county treasurers to enter into no more than two tax foreclosure-avoidance agreements with the same property owner.
Property owners may also seek assistance via the Step Forward program, which allows homeowners to receive a no-interest loan, with no monthly payments, and forgiven at 20 percent each year if they remain in the home.
“We’ve gotten more than $1 million for them, to help pay people’s property taxes,” she said. The statewide program has just received an infusion of $30 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Treasury to continue.
Properties with no taxes paid and no hardship agreements are placed on auction lists twice following inspection by the Land Bank following the March 31 deadline. Municipalities or the Land Bank can snatch some up properties prior to bidding.
Cherry said the county is looking at a potential change to the process, including bundling more properties together that may not sell at the minimum-bid auction before moving onto the scavenger auction later in the year.
If properties are not sold at either auction, Cherry said they revert to the county and are either accepted or rejected by municipalities, with the remainder heading to the Land Bank.
She expects a glut of property owners at her office in the coming days.
“We’re going to get a lot of people who are trying to get paid before those extra fees are added on,” Cherry said. “The closer it gets to March 31, the busier it gets.”