Julia Aikens: I Shouldn't Have to Lose My Home

Julia Aikens: I Shouldn't Have to Lose My Home

PHOTOGRAPHY BY Emell Derra Adolphus, Digital Media Strategist
ESSAY BY Darrell Dawsey, Communications Director

For two decades, Julia Aikens worked to make sure others were cared for.

A medical assistant in a nursing home from 1979 to 1999, Aikens spent the better part of her career looking after the elderly until she herself was forced to go onto disability 17 years ago.

Now, at age 67 and living in an eastside Detroit home she purchased for only $755 in 2014, the soft-spoken grandmother wishes that the city were more diligent about looking after her.

Read more about the foreclosure crisis in Wayne County.

"We need to keep our neighborhoods strong, and that means the city and county have to make sure they're treating homeowners fairly," says Aikens. "I shouldn't have to lose my home because Wayne County is taxing us based on bad assessments by the city."

But these gross overestimations of the value of Aikens' home have put her squarely on the brink of foreclosure. Based on the city's assessment, the "true cash value" of Aikens' home is an estimated $26,122—outrageously disproportionate to what she'd get on the actual real estate market for a home purchased for less than $800 a year ago.

Aikens, whose annual income is about $12,900 from social security and food aid, sought relief under the poverty exemption. However, she was rebuffed by the city because she hadn't lived in her home for more than a year—even though the poverty exemption application doesn't require an applicant to live in a residence for a specified period of time to be eligible for relief.

Although Aikens has been forced into a payment assistance program that demands she pay $50 in back taxes each month—despite the fact that the taxes have been determined by wildly over-inflated estimates—she nevertheless has found herself facing tax foreclosure by the Wayne County Treasurer's Office.

"I'm an elderly woman on a very limited income," she says. "If I qualify for the poverty exemption, then I think the government ought to make sure I get the help it's offering. I thought that was the point of these programs in the first place."

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