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2015 Top Business Stories

SIOUX CITY | The Promenade Cinema 14 flung open its doors on Nov. 5, 2005, marking the return of first-run movies to downtown Sioux City.

The 14-screen theater was the centerpiece of a $13 million entertainment complex constructed at Fourth and Virginia streets by a California-based developer, with the aid of millions of dollars in tax incentives and loan guarantees from the city.

The developer, Civic Partners Sioux City LLC, promised to quickly fill the retail space that wrapped around the theater with a mixture of restaurants, bars and shops that would appeal not only to theater-goers but also visitors to the adjacent Historic Fourth District.

A decade later, nearly all the 12,000 square feet of retail space remains vacant. Not for a lack of trying by local commercial real estate officials, though.

United Commercial’s Beau Braunger said he has had offers on the space for months, but a protracted legal fight over the property has made it virtually impossible to close a deal.

“It’s very frustrating,” Braunger said earlier this month. “The way it’s listed, it’s a full-price offer. The bank and the courts are just sitting on it. It’s been a complete stalemate it seems.”

The legal dispute recently moved a step closer to a potential resolution.


A three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 3 dismissed Civic Partners’ appeal related to the company’s 2011 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

The appeals court found it lacked jurisdiction to review the appeal because the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Court in Sioux City had not issued a final order, judgment, decree or decision in the underlying Chapter 11 petition.

The case is now back in the hands of Chief Bankruptcy Judge Thad Collins, who in October 2013 denied Civic Partners’ reorganization plan, saying the projected cash flow made the plan not feasible and “there is no realistic projected path forward on the vacant retail space.”

Two months after the ruling, First National Bank of Sioux City, which holds the first mortgage on the building and has proceeded to foreclosure, filed a motion asking Collins to dismiss the bankruptcy petition or convert it to a Chapter 7 liquidation. The city and the Promenade owner, Omaha-based Main Street Theatres, joined the bank’s motion.

Collins is now expected to rule on the motion.

Still, lawyers familiar with the case said Civic Partners or even another group likely will have an opportunity to present a different reorganization plan. Because the Eighth Circuit Court ruled on procedural grounds, rather the merits of the case, more appeals also are possible, if not probable.

“The potential exists that this will continue on for some time,” Jeff Wright, a Sioux City attorney who has represented the city in the case, said Thursday.

M. Mark Rice, a Des Moines attorney representing First National Bank, declined to comment following the appeals court ruling. Frank Baron, a Sioux City attorney who has represented Civic Partners, did not immediately return a call to the Journal.

In its earlier plan to restructure its debt, Civic Partners sought to significantly reduce the secured claim of the bank, its primary lender, and leave the city, which guaranteed a portion of the bank loan, entirely unsecured. The plan also attempted to satisfy smaller debts that Civic Partners principal Steve Semingson personally owed as a guarantor, according to court documents.

Civic Partners also tried unsuccessfully to get Collins to reinstate the company’s original 2004 lease with Main Street Theaters, which called for $1.2 million in annual rent. Unbeknownst to the theater owners, the original lease covered virtually all of Civic Partners’ debt service payment, according to court documents. Due to significant water problems identified shortly after the facility opened, Main Street was not able to make even one full payment at that rate, court documents said.

As part of mediation between the developer, theater owner and bank in 2009, the yearly rent was lowered to $900,000.


The city, which was not represented at the mediation talks, did not ratify or approve the settlement, though. The bank then canceled the agreement and filed for foreclosure in December 2010, accusing Civic Partners of defaulting on a $5.63 million loan for the project. At the time of the foreclosure filing, Civic Partners’ debt, including interest, had reached more than $6.1 million.

Civic Partners then filed for Chapter 11 protection in December 2010. The company has argued the court should subordinate the interests of the bank and the city because they “defrauded Civic into accepting the amended lease.”

The City Council in 2001 voted to guarantee a portion of the Civic Partners loans, seeing the development as a key component to rejuvenating a sagging downtown entertainment district. At the time, the Tyson Events Center wouldn’t open for another three-plus years, and the Orpheum Theatre remained closed in the midst of fundraising to remodel the historic theater to its former glory.

The city’s unprecedented backing of a loan for a private development came back to bite local taxpayers. A Woodbury County District Court judge in August 2013 ordered the city to pay $1.2 million to First National for defaulted payments for the bank loan. Thus far, the city has made $600,000 in payments, with two more installments of $300,000 each to go.

City officials said they will attempt to recoup the funds through separate litigation to enforce Semingson’s personal guarantee of the loan.

“We’re in a position of waiting until the bankruptcy is settled until we can aggressively pursue that,” Wright said.


Leasing the remaining retail space in the complex also will continue to be challenging, at best, until the bankruptcy runs its course. Other than the theater, the only other tenant is 6 South Designs, a women’s clothing and event-planning store. According to court documents, it’s not the type of complementary entertainment business that Main Street Theaters was originally promised.

With dirt floors and bare studs, the vacant retail space has not been finished to a “vanilla shell” or “vanilla box,” industry terms for ready-to-rent conditions.

Despite all the challenges thrown its way over the years, the Promenade Cinema 14 has more than lived up to expectations. Nearly two-thirds of all movie-goers in Sioux City are choosing the downtown theater, said Bill Barstow, president of Main Street Theatres, a family owned and operated chain with eight locations in Iowa and Nebraska.

The only other first-run theater in town, the Southern Hills 12, is part of the Carmike Cinema national chain.

While confident Main Street will prevail, the lengthy legal dispute involving the Civic Partners property “hasn’t been good for Sioux City,” Barstow said in a statement.

“We have big ideas for the Promenade, and we hope to move forward soon,” he said. “We hope to broaden our connection to Sioux City as soon as the courts rule in our favor… We’re convinced we will have the opportunity to entertain Sioux City in the heart of their community for years to come.”

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For 1 man, bankruptcy pays off _ again and again and again

Tampa Bay’s most prolific bankruptcy filer is at it again.

On Nov. 10, just weeks after a two-year ban expired, Paul Stenstrom of Tarpon Springs filed another bankruptcy petition — his 15th since 2002.

Stenstrom — whose prior filings blocked foreclosure on his home for 12 years — is now trying to stop eviction from a townhouse he rents.

The self-described “consultant” has had so many case numbers assigned to him over the years that it makes for “a big, thick, dense block of text” on the court docket, commented Tampa bankruptcy Judge Catherine Peek McEwen. “I’ve never seen this many.”

Stenstrom, who answered a knock on his door Friday morning, blamed his current financial difficulties on health problems.

“I’ve had seizures,” he said. “I was ready to make a payment when I had a seizure.”

According to his most recent petition, he owes a total of $7,800 in delinquent rent on the two-story, canal-front townhome in the Callista Cay complex. The petition lists the monthly rent as $2,200, making him more than three months in arrears.

Stenstrom’s current residence is a few miles from the house he and his wife bought in 2001. In less than a year, they stopped making payments, the bank started to foreclose and Stenstrom filed his first bankruptcy petition in 2002.

A bankruptcy filing automatically halts foreclosures and other debt-collection activities, a provision of the law that enabled the Stenstroms to remain in their home rent-free for the next 12 years.

Every time the bank got a final judgment of foreclosure and an auction was scheduled, Stenstrom would file a bankruptcy petition to block the sale. A judge then would dismiss Stenstrom’s case because he hadn’t submitted the required documents, the bank would resume foreclosing, and so on and so forth.

Stenstrom also took advantage of the fact that there are no limits on how many bankruptcy petitions an individual can file. Judges, though, can bar debtors from refiling for a certain period of time if they are deemed “serial abusive filers” who try to game the system and stay in their homes without paying.

On Sept. 20, 2013, Judge Michael Williamson accused Stenstrom of “abusing the bankruptcy process” and barred him from refiling before Sept. 20 of this year. The bank finally repossessed the Palm Harbor home, and Stenstrom, his wife, three daughters and four cats took up residence in the townhouse.

In his newest filing, submitted less than two months after the ban expired, Stenstrom lists assets of $16,710 and liabilities of $68,620. Most of that is in taxes owed the IRS and child support dating back to 1987 in Texas.

McEwen, who is not assigned to Stenstrom’s pending case, said serial filers are not necessarily abusing the system.

“If they sit out for two years and this is a continuing pattern of what they did before, a judge might still view it as abusive,” she said. “But it depends on why they need the current bankruptcy. Let’s say the IRS came down on a debtor who had been the subject of a bar order. The reason then might have been the foreclosure issue but now they have a tax problem not associated with foreclosure. It’s a different problem.”

Like Stenstrom’s previous petitions, the most recent one was filed under Chapter 13 in which the debtor agrees to repay creditors under a court-approved plan. Stenstrom has never had a plan approved, and his 15th petition indicates that any new plan for paying delinquent rent and other debts depends heavily on his family’s help.

“Daughters are starting part-time jobs so will help some on expenses,” Stenstrom wrote. “Wife just started working, has not helped but said she would help as well unless we divorce. In that case, I may move if my income doesn’t rise, then all expenses would drop.”

Now 64, Stenstrom gets $1,574 a month in Social Security and reported making $1,300 a month as a consultant. Asked what kind of consulting, he replied “marketing, media, construction” but would not elaborate.

The Stenstroms are getting divorced, he said, although she is still living in the townhouse. Records show Stenstrom was arrested in June on a misdemeanor domestic battery charge but was allowed to enter a pre-trial diversion program.

If Stenstrom doesn’t willingly move, the owner of the townhouse — who lives in Shanghai, China — and the property management company might have to wait awhile to get him out.

“If they didn’t obtain a judgment (before he filed), they can’t proceed,” McEwen said.

McEwen and other Tampa bankruptcy judges have been cracking down on people like Stenstrom who repeatedly file bankruptcy petitions to block foreclosure and eviction.

In the past two years scores of debtors have been deemed “serial abusive filers” and banned from refiling, typically for up to two years. Yet that hasn’t stopped others from trying.

“Oh, heck yeah, we’ve been having dockets (of serial filers) twice a month,” McEwen said. “We did a stack of them last week.”

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San Jose: Effort to shelter homeless to displace family

SAN JOSE — In an ironic twist, a new effort by the city of San Jose to provide housing for homeless veterans could send a family packing for another place to stay.

The San Jose City Council approved a $3 million grant a couple of weeks ago to renovate two rundown houses in the Rose Garden area. The city intends to move 16 homeless veterans into those houses with help from the nonprofit group Housing for Independent People once construction is complete.

The Vermont House, as the two city-owned homes at 1072 and 1082 Vermont St. are referred to, once was a residential drug and alcohol rehab facility for low-income people. According to staff memos, the city took ownership of the houses via foreclosure in 2009 when the rehab facility defaulted on its loan.

What remains unclear, however, is the history and nature of the city’s relationship with the family that has been living there for several years. Michael Gonzalez said he and wife Felicia Blanco have lived in the home at 1082 Vermont St. since 2006 or 2007. They were homeless for several years before then, sleeping in their truck when not staying with family.

“I was looking for some work, and I saw some real estate guys out here,” Gonzalez said. “They asked me if I would do some work on this property and I told them, ‘Sure.’ “

Gonzalez said they negotiated a deal in which the couple would look after both homes in exchange for free housing. Among other things, the couple agreed to maintain the houses, do yard work and report trespassers to the police. The arrangement changed in 2010 when there was turnover at the housing department that manages the properties, Gonzalez said.

“At that point they asked us to start paying rent and to stop taking care of this property next door,” Gonzalez said. Since then they have paid a monthly rent of $417 to the city, he added.

Blanco said they had known for several years that the city was trying to sell the houses but were still surprised to learn several months ago they would have to move. She said they initially were told they might have to move by early November but they still have not received an official notice.

“It could be any day,” Blanco said. “Throughout all the years that we’ve been paying rent, they’ve been telling us, ‘Well, somebody’s interested in the homes; you might end up having to move out soon.’ But they never give us an actual date.”

Gonzalez said that since the city authorized funding for the shelters earlier in November, they’ve been told not to worry. But how much time remains for them is uncertain.

“They would probably start working on this house next to us first, to give us enough time to go ahead and finish moving out,” Gonzalez said. “Then they gave me notification that I could call someone in the [housing] department and … that they’d try to help us.”

Housing director Jackie Morales-Ferrand said the arrangement was mutually beneficial but that there always has been an understanding that it wouldn’t be permanent.

“They were getting a great deal and great opportunity for them, and it was good for us for seven years,” Morales-Ferrand said. “It’s not like we just gave them a 30-day notice and said they have to leave. They’ve known for at least two years. This was never considered a permanent residence for them.”

She also said that the city is taking steps to ensure that the couple and their 16-year-old son find another place to live, including assistance with signing up for housing vouchers.

“We have been working with them to try to find them other options for housing, and so once we have a firm date, we would provide that for them,” Morales-Ferrand said.

She said renovation would be the best use of both houses.

“This is a great opportunity to house 16 veterans,” she said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to provide housing for our vets. This couple — we’ll absolutely work with them to find a suitable place where they can transition.”

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Latest Foreclosure Propertiers in Nyack and Piermont

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Habitat for Humanity moves deeper into suburbs

The nonprofit best known for helping people in need build their own homes in low-income areas has joined investors in buying dozens of foreclosed houses in more midlevel communities.

“We’ve been able to go into nontraditional neighborhoods,” said Penny Seater, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Seminole County and Greater Apopka. “Our families have gotten access to housing in neighborhoods with really good schools and safety — those were the two big things.”

Because many foreclosures are in more desirable neighborhoods, the nonprofit was able to pick up financially distressed houses and provide a better environment for its buyers, she added.

Habitat for Humanity’s move beyond historically low-income areas and into more mainstream neighborhoods reflects a new direction for affordable housing. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that housing agencies may no longer place families exclusively in low-income pockets and must instead allow them to locate in areas with high-performing schools and promising job opportunities.

Seater said she occasionally gets push-back from homeowners in Habitat’s expanding geographic footprint. She said she has “heard rumblings” of complaints from Maitland-area homeowners, for instance, about plans for a new Habitat house there.

Habitat gives couple new ADA-compliant home

Habitat gives couple new ADA-compliant home

Brian Arndt was 22 when he was critically injured in an accident while leaving a college campus. Arndt, a paraplegic, was recently given keys to an ADA-compliant home.

Brian Arndt was 22 when he was critically injured in an accident while leaving a college campus. Arndt, a paraplegic, was recently given keys to an ADA-compliant home.

See more videos

Complaints usually die down, she added, when people realize the nonprofit scrutinizes prospective buyers, and the buying families must invest 500 hours of “sweat equity” in renovating the home.

“These houses are nicer than anything around them,” she added.

In Orange County, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando is rehabbing its 38th foreclosure since starting near the bottom of the market in 2009.

“Certainly this was a different direction, but it made a lot of sense,” said Greg Allen-Anderson, chief program officer for the Orlando-based housing group. “Why build new when there are so many distressed properties on the market?”

When Orlando’s Habitat group started working with Orange County on the foreclosure reclamations, the focus was on the Pine Hills area, but then it expanded to Azalea Park and areas of east Orange County, Allen-Anderson said.

In addition to Pine Hills, much of Orange County’s foreclosure-reclamation money has been spent in the Meadow Woods area in south Orange, said county housing manager Mitchell Glasser, who has overseen what’s called the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Orange County, together with Habitat and other nonprofits, has purchased 259 homes throughout the county since 2009. Those foreclosures might otherwise have been purchased by investors and turned into rentals, which does little to help restore a neighborhood, he added.

Habitat’s reach is likely to expand in the next few years as the Orange County Commission looks at partnering more fully with it in an effort to spend the last $8 million from a $40 million federal fund aimed at stabilizing foreclosure-racked neighborhoods. The county is also working with the federal government to be able to spend those housing dollars on parks, community centers and other uses.

Through the county’s program, Habitat for Humanity groups in Central Florida have sold 41 of the foreclosed houses to very low-income buyers. Habitat has purchased the homes for an average of $41,700, then spent an average of $49,800 rehabbing them before selling them for an average of $83,000. Despite losing an average of $8,200 per property, Orlando’s Habitat benefits by holding the mortgage. The new owners’ monthly payments average $491, which includes mortgage, property taxes, insurance and a termite bond.

Prices are so affordable that some neighbors have raised concerns that their own property values will decline, said Seminole County resident Deanna Yarizadeh. She said homeowners in the Casselberry area have been vocal on neighborhood message boards about opposing plans for a nearby Habitat house.

“I think it’s important for them to do a little bit of research before getting out their pitchforks and petitions,” Yarizadeh said. “It’s important to bring people out of poverty and into really good schools with access to services. It’s not going to lower the value of homes.”

Seater said she “guarantees” the houses her Habitat group builds are better housing stock and more energy-efficient than houses surrounding them. And because they sell for appraised value, she added, they reflect home prices in the neighborhood. or 407-420-5538

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Help Available for Homeowners Facing Foreclosure

Oakland County homeowners on the brink of losing their homes to tax or mortgage foreclosures have two opportunities to resolve the problems this week, Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner said.

Qualified homeowners may get up to $30,000 in loans to pay delinquent property tax or mortgage assistance from the Step Forward Michigan program, which is part of a federally funded program, Meisner told The Detroit News.

The interest-free loans are forgiven at a rate of 20 percent a year. That means if a homeowner stays current on tax and mortgage payments for five years after a Step Forward payment is made, the loan is forgiven.

Some 5,000 properties are set for foreclosure on March 31, and about a fifth of them will go to auction in August.

Free clinics on the foreclosure prevention program will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Jewish Vocational Service, 29699 Southfield Road in Southfield; and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at new Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, 174 Branch in Pontiac.

Applications for assistance must be started by Dec. 31 and submitted by Jan. 31. Applicants must occupy their home; have delinquent taxes due; be facing a hardship that caused the delinquency; have an income, which can include Social Security or other assistance payments; and have cash reserves of less than 11/2-times their homes’ annual property tax bill.

More information is available here, here, or by calling the Oakland County Treasurer’s Office Financial Empowerment Center at (248) 858-0611.

» Photo via Flickr

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Student Debt in America: Lend With a Smile, Collect With a Fist

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The Descent Into Madness, Part II

The roots of our nation’s current descent into madness can be traced back to a series of unresolved catastrophic traumas Americans experienced during the Bush Administration. In the short span of 8 years, we suffered a collective loss of confidence in American leadership, in the ability of government to perform its most basic functions, and in the very essence of the American Dream.

Recall that when George W. Bush was elected in 2000, the electoral process itself had been confidence-shattering. Having been brought up to believe in the inviolability of our democratic process, exposure to “how the sausage was made”, caused great discomfort. Nevertheless, we moved on because the country was doing well both economically and politically. We had emerged victorious from the Cold War and in the decade that followed demonstrated our uncontested leadership, winning two relatively quick wars: liberating Kuwait and bringing peace to Bosnia.

Then came the devastating blow of 9/11. The fateful decisions taken by the Bush Administration in response to that attack only prolonged and ultimately deepened the trauma of the terrorist attacks. They misled the country into two wars, telling us that victory would be “quick and clean” and certain — we would be heralded as liberators, and the spark of democracy would spread throughout the entire Middle East. Five years later, with thousands of American lives lost, a trillion dollars of our treasury spent, growing anti-American sentiment worldwide, and both wars far from over, Americans had lost confidence in our world leadership.

The Bush Administration performed no better on the home front. While the president was given credit for saying “Islam is a religion of peace” and cautioning Americans not to target their fellow Arab and Muslim American citizens, his Justice Department undercut that message by instituting practices that profiled both communities. Mass round-ups, inflammatory press conferences, and the frequent abuse of “heightened alerts” created fear and fostered public suspicions about the “enemy within”.

It was at that point that Katrina hit, dealing another blow to the an already reeling country. Even “small government” conservatives expect that government will perform well in time of tragedy. The Administration’s delayed response and the bungling that followed only served to deepen the public’s loss of confidence in the ability of government to act.

The final blow came in the Bush Administration’s waning days in the form of a deep and, for a time, growing economic recession that shook the foundations of our financial system and the public’s confidence in the American Dream. Within a few short months, major banks and manufacturers were on the verge of bankruptcy, average Americans had lost 20 to 30 percent of the wealth they had accumulated in their pension plans, the unemployment rate had doubled, and one in five homeowners were threatened with foreclosure. Polls, which throughout the 1990s showed two-thirds of Americans confident in their economic future, were suddenly reversed with two-thirds now saying that the country was on the “wrong track” and the same two-thirds no longer believing that their children would be better off in the future.

This was the setting of Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, the most remarkable aspect of which was that it was based on the triumph of hope over fear coupled with a call to look forward to better days. In most periods of collective trauma that I have studied, the more typical reaction is for movements to emerge that prey off fear and social dislocation and to appeal to the values of a romanticized past.

This time was different, but it only lasted for a short while. No sooner had Obama won, then the GOP began plotting his demise. They did everything they could to block his agenda in Congress; they funded and provided logistical support for the Tea Party; they gave a wink and a nod to the “birther movement;” and, in ways subtle and not so subtle, they exploited the basest of fears about the President’s African heritage and his father’s religion. Within a year of Obama’s election, a substantial number of self-identified Republicans said they believed that the President had not been born in the US and was, therefore, not a legitimate president.

Polls have consistently established that both the Tea Party and “birthers” share some demographic characteristics. They are white, largely middle class and middle aged. They had been disproportionately impacted by the economic collapse and felt that the government’s response to the crisis had been to favor the rich and poor minorities — at their expense. They see themselves as victims of a failed government that misled them and let them down. Despite indicators that point to an economic recovery, they remain insecure and are waiting for the “other shoe to drop.” They are afraid of “foreigners” whom they blame for their economic decline, the erosion of social cohesion, and the “benefits” they believe are doled out to immigrants at their expense. They especially blame Muslims for the danger they pose at home and abroad. And they blame the President because they see him as “foreign” and favoring the interests of “minorities” and Muslims over their own. [A recent poll showed that over 50 percent of all Republicans now believe Obama is a Muslim, with over 60 percent of Trump and Carson supporters believing this and believing that the President wasn't born in the US.]

The Trump and GOP appeals to “Make America great again,” to “stop us from losing”, or to “restore our honor” are in response to the still unresolved collective trauma experienced by the same group of voters who comprised the Tea Party. They are the anti-Obama message — appealing to fear and not hope, and looking backward, not forward. Ironically, they are the themes on which Republicans might have based their campaign in 2008, had they not been running to replace one of their own in the Oval Office.

For months now, the pundits and the GOP establishment have dismissed the dangers posed by the likes of Trump and Carson and Cruz. Trump, they said, would be undone by his insults and fabrications; Carson was a fad who would soon fade; and Cruz, because he was so disliked, would go nowhere. Most recent polls, however, show these three garnering between 50 and 60 percent of the Republican vote. And as their rhetoric becomes harsher, with naked appeals to intolerance and even violence, it is time to wake up. Because they speak to an entire group’s existential crisis, tap into their deep reservoir of resentment, and elicit violent emotions, these themes and their proponents must be addressed.

Follow @AAIUSA for more.

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Oakland County Treasurer touts foreclosure prevention program, area events …


Step Forward Michigan homeowner assistance clinics are free and open to the public and will be held at the following dates and locations:

6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at Jewish Vocational Service, located at 29699 Southfield Road in Southfield.

10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4 at the fellowship hall at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, located at 174 Branch Street in Pontiac.

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner is urging county residents facing foreclosure to take advantage of an assistance program which can offer as much as $30,000 in relief.

Step Forward Michigan, which is federally funded, offers aid to applicants facing a hardship that has caused their delinquency with property taxes or mortgage payments, according to a county press release.

Annette Chatman, 52, of Southfield, was able to avoid foreclosure after receiving more than $27,000 in support from Step Forward, which she learned of from the Oakland County Treasurers Office.

Chatman faced a hardship while caring for aging parents and was paying to repair severe water damage at her home, according to the release.

(Step Forward) has allowed me a second chance and I am forever grateful, she said.

Preventing foreclosures also protects neighboring homes from losing more than eight percent in property value, Meisner added.

I want every eligible Oakland County homeowner to apply immediately for the Step Forward program and get a chance to save their home.

To qualify for the program, applicants must occupy their home, have delinquent taxes due, have cash reserves less than 1.5 times the homes annual property tax bill and have an income, which can include Social Security or assistance payments.

The deadline is Dec. 31 and the county treasurers office is hosting a pair of free events next week to help homeowners apply for the program.

Residents can also receive free help applying for Step Forward by contacting the Oakland County Treasurers Office Financial Empowerment Center at 248-858-0611.

For more information about Step Forward Michigan, visit or call 866-946-7432.

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How to avoid tax foreclosure

Posted: Thursday, November 26, 2015 5:00 am

How to avoid tax foreclosure

By JOHN MATUSZAK – HP Staff Writer

The Herald-Palladium


ST. JOSEPH – Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski wants residents facing foreclosure to know that there is a way to keep their homes and lower the amount they owe at the same time.

Michigan has a Tax Foreclosure Avoidance Agreement Program, which offers a lower interest rate for those who sign up for a payment plan for back taxes.

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