Taking Foreclosures to Task

All across the country, local governments, CDCs, community groups, and housing counselors are coming together to address the foreclosure crisis.

Across the country, from Arizona to New Jersey and Florida to Michigan, community-based organizations, community development organizations, businesses, clergy, and city, county, and state representatives are banding together to form foreclosure task forces in order to take a regional look at a regional problem.

At this point, the unfolding of the foreclosure crisis is a story Americans have become all too accustomed to hearing. Round 1: as adjustable rates reset and housing prices fell subprime and predatory loans that were beyond the capacity of the mortgage holders went into default. Round 2: Unemployment, which is not expected to fall lower than 9 percent in 2010, has emerged as the number 1 cause for continuing foreclosures. Foreclosure filings are anticipated on 3 million properties by year’s end, along with more than 1 million bank repossessions, according to RealtyTrac.

In many cases, the dramatic realities of these waves of foreclosures have forced organizations used to working separately to come together, share information, and coordinate both programs and advocacy.

In Michigan, for example, housing counselors were being overwhelmed by queries from homeowners facing foreclosure. The state is in the top ten in the country for foreclosure filings, and its foreclosure rate shot up 29 percent in the first half of 2010 as compared to the first half of 2009. In Wayne County alone, home to Detroit, there were nearly 112,000 foreclosure filings in June 2010. In response, 20 nonprofit housing counseling agencies have banded together to coordinate their community outreach, education, and foreclosure prevention services, and ultimately to offer up legislative strategies that address the effects of foreclosed homes on neighborhoods.

And there are similar efforts going on around the rest of the country. In Arizona, which ranked third in the nation, behind only Florida and California, for mortgage fraud, the Arizona Foreclosure Prevention Taskforce, comprising, among others, Neighborhood Housing Services of Phoenix, Comerica Bank, Desert Schools Credit Union, and the Pima County Community Development and Neighborhood Conservation Department, was formed in 2007. Scam prevention is a hallmark of its mission, and it has focused its efforts on prevention and education, offering workshops and counseling to at-risk homeowners.

In Florida, where there were over 275,000 foreclosure filings in June 2010 alone, several countywide task forces have attempted to stem the rising tide. In Washington, D.C., there’s the Capital Area Foreclosure Network, which brings together local governments, community organizations, and funders, as well as institutions like NeighborWorks America and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. And in New Jersey’s Essex County, a task force that began as a way to coordinate prevention measures spawned a consortium that won a round 2 federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant.

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