Cities struggling with vacant properties can use their ability to place liens on properties that fall behind on their taxes, a terrific way for cities to reclaim properties not being used by their owners (usually property speculators). Flint and Cleveland have used this, as have other so-called ‘shrinking’ cities.
But in this terrible twist, Washington DC is outsourcing the function of placing a lien on homes to investors who are then aggressively foreclosing on homes, most of whom are poor, elderly, and Black. This great story profiles some of the most egregious examples (a man who owed $134 in property taxes lost all of his equity and is now in a nursing home). This is exactly what cities should not be in the the business of doing: persecuting low-income residents and wholesale clearing of those who have invested in their homes and neighborhoods for generations.