“Mind blowing” and “humbling” is how Marissa Boston, Tax Foreclosure Advocate at Community Advocates, calls her work with homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure due to delinquent property taxes from the pandemic era.
Community Advocates is partnering on this program with the University of Wisconsin Law School to help struggling homeowners.
Boston helps them to apply for assistance with their bills—typically the Wisconsin Help for Homeowners program and other supports. In just a few months, Community Advocates has prevented five homeowners from losing their homes due to tax foreclosure, and is also reaching out to homeowners who are delinquent on their property taxes, but not yet facing foreclosure.
As part of the project, UW Law School students are researching whether the property taxes these homeowners pay is fair. Nationally, in many big cities, owners of the least expensive homes pay disproportionately high property taxes, and “Black people own a disproportionate share of lower-valued real estate, Bloomberg reported.
Boston goes into the neighborhoods with the highest potential for foreclosures to raise awareness of help available to homeowners. But many have moved on, and old phone numbers no longer work. Boston knocks on doors and leaves flyers, and does her best to make connections with neighbors.
Recently, one such homeowner picked up her flyer and contacted her. He’d lost his job due to the pandemic and fell behind on bills, including his property taxes. He didn’t realize that help was out there for homeowners like him, and he was grateful to hear from Boston. She’s helping him to get assistance so he can catch up on his bills, and keep foreclosure at bay.
“It’s very hard to get caught up, plus the increased cost of living has made it even harder,” Boston said.
She said she appreciates the opportunity to help homeowners, just as she helped tenants behind on their rent during the pandemic. “It’s very humbling, and it keeps me on my toes.”