Since it launched in 2020, the City of Detroit’s Financial Empowerment Center (FEC), as part of the CFE Fund’s national FEC Public initiative, has had a special focus on assisting homeowners at risk of property tax foreclosure. Working with the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office (WCTO) and the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency (Wayne Metro), the City’s FEC joined a property tax relief ecosystem that is complex and constantly evolving, especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its ability to adapt to changing systems while remaining focused on client services enabled the FEC to help 440 homeowners reduce their overall debt by over $2.6 million to date.

In partnership with the City of Detroit, and with generous support from the Wells Fargo Foundation, the CFE Fund has engaged in a study to unpack the benefits of the relationship between Detroit’s property tax relief programs and FEC financial counseling. The study, whose findings will be released in Summer 2023, will combine original qualitative research with analysis of administrative data to explore sustainable homeownership outcomes experienced by clients participating in FEC counseling, the factors that influence those outcomes, and other questions to inform future programming and the broader field.

This brief outlines the challenge of property tax foreclosure in Detroit, the opportunity to connect residents in danger of foreclosure with FEC financial counseling, and key considerations for study design.