Someone in Detroit really wants the city's rundown residences—thousands of them. A mystery bidder has offered $3.2 million to scoop up a huge batch of foreclosures (many of them due to owed taxes) in an open auction held by Wayne County, Businessweek reports. The county, which is trying to dump the homes in bulk to help clean up city blight, had previously tried selling such properties off on their own or in smaller batches, but more than 75% of the new buyers also defaulted on their taxes. Just this year there have been 22,000 foreclosures in the city, with 85,000 more foreclosure notices set to be delivered over the next couple of months, the Atlantic reports.
Because many of these homes still house tenants, that means 142,000 Detroit residents—one-fifth of the entire population, according to the Census Bureau—may be out on the street in the next 18 months. What makes this multimillion-dollar mystery offer even more baffling is that the deal doesn't look like it offers a lot of bang for the buck. The "blight bundle" cited in Businessweek indicates only about 1,000 of the homes "hold some value," with many of them moldy and missing furnaces or wiring; 2,000 are just empty lots, and 3,000 need to be torn down completely within six months, which could cost an extra $24 million. "It could be—and this is all speculation—that the people who are bidding on it are altruistic in nature," the county's chief deputy treasurer tells Businessweek. (One Detroit homeowner said he'd give up his house for a smartphone.)