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UCHC Affordable Housing Journal

Distinctly Detroit stories with a focus on homelessness prevention.

Safe at Home

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Detroit homeowner Marcus Weems nearly lost his house when someone mistakenly “bought” it at the annual treasurer’s auction in 2021. Here's how UCHC helped him get it back.

By: UCHC Staff

Detroit homeowner Marcus Weems stands on his front porch.
Marcus Weems is busy fixing up his new house on the city’s west side. He’s grateful to have a home at all after nearly losing it in the local treasurer’s auction. (Photo by Dave Mesrey)

Marcus Weems was stressed.

In January 2021, the longtime Detroit resident was recovering from a bout with COVID that had left him hospitalized. While he was still struggling to regain his health, Weems decided to take a chance and buy a house from a private seller in the Evergreen-Lahser neighborhood on the city’s west side.

Even though it was a fixer-upper, Weems felt like he’d realized the American dream.

“When I bought the house, it came with some back taxes,” he says, “but I had a clean title and everything. My title company said there was no liens, no foreclosures or nothing.”

But later that year, Weems, 59, sensed that something wasn’t quite right. One day in the fall of 2021, he got a letter from a man who had supposedly purchased Weems’ house through the local treasurer’s auction.

“I was like, ‘How did this happen?’” Weems says. “All of a sudden, this guy starts putting letters on my door. I showed him my paperwork, but he and his ladyfriend acted like I had a false document or something.

“I was like, ‘Wow. I didn’t get any warning that my house was going into foreclosure.’ I didn’t even get a chance to get on a payment plan.”

Finding himself in a precarious position, Weems knew he needed help.

“The house had $10,000 in back taxes, but before long it went up to about $15,000,” Weems says. “I was in a pickle — I was in a real bind.”

That’s when he reached out to the United Community Housing Coalition.

“I got in touch with Zina at UCHC,” Weems says, “and she got right on top of it.”

UCHC Director of Homeownership Programs Zina Thomas had seen these kinds of cases before.

“The buyer didn’t have the right to bid on Marcus’ house, and he didn’t have the deed," Thomas says. "So I told Marcus, ‘This is an illegal eviction — they cannot evict you.’”

Once the treasurer’s office realized its mistake, they refunded the money to the bidder and worked with UCHC to transfer the deed to Weems.

He was elated.

Marcus Weems enjoys brunch at his local Coney Island on Detroit's west side.
UCHC helped save Marcus Weems' house from tax foreclosure. (Photo by Dave Mesrey)

“I was super stressed out,” Weems says. “I was on the verge of being homeless, but UCHC really went to bat for me and got the sale reversed. Zina and her staff did an excellent job. She really worked on it as if she was trying to save her own house.”


At UCHC, we believe that housing is a human right. Your generous support helps us keep our low-income neighbors safe and secure in their homes throughout the year. To help support UCHC, click here.

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