Foreclosures and Tax Sales – Detroit

Detroit needs residents, but sends some packing: By Monica Davey, June 26, 2014, New York Times: “Ronald Ford Jr. has watched neighbors move away and brick houses on his family’s block crumble to nothing, but he says he wants to stay put and give a chance to city leaders who now promise a renaissance. ‘I’d like to try to go with the new Detroit if that’s really coming,’ Mr. Ford, 49, said, standing outside the house on the city’s east side that he describes as precious, ‘like a family heirloom.’ Yet as Mike Duggan, the mayor of the nation’s largest bankrupt city, pledges to stem the flood of departures that have crippled Detroit and to begin increasing the city’s population for the first time in decades, Mr. Ford is on the verge of losing his family’s house. So are tens of thousands of others here who failed to pay their property taxes. In a city that desperately needs to hold onto residents, there is a virtual pipeline out. At least 70,000 foreclosures have taken place since 2009 because of delinquent property taxes. . .”

Affordable Housing

Obama administration expands affordable housing plan, By Elvina Nawaguna, June 26, 2014, Reuters: “The Obama administration said on Thursday it would tap Treasury funds to bolster the construction of affordable rental housing and extend the life of a program aimed at helping homeowners avoid foreclosure. The announcement by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew was timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Making Home Affordable program, an Obama administration initiative launched at the height of the economic crisis in 2009 to revitalize the housing sector and curb runaway foreclosures. He said the program would be extended through December 2016. ‘We need to continue to be there for homeowners who are facing foreclosure, those who are struggling with increasing interest rates on their modified mortgages, and those whose homes are caught underwater. . .”

Detroit Free Press Series on Homeless Students

  • Michigan’s homeless students: Foreclosure crisis takes toll on 31,000 kids, By Jeff Seidel, December 18, 2011, Detroit Free Press: “Like a silent epidemic, the number of homeless children in Michigan schools is growing. In the 2010-11 school year, more than 31,000 homeless students attended school — 8,500 more than in the previous school year, a 37% spike attributed to the weak economy, loss of jobs and the foreclosure crisis. Overall, the number of homeless students in Michigan has jumped more than 300% in the last four years. Most experts say those numbers are low because many parents are embarrassed to admit they are homeless. And many school districts lack the resources to identify these kids, as required by federal law. Advocates say there’s also a disincentive to find homeless children. Once a district finds them, it has to pay to transport them to school and provide other services — a tough job for many cash-strapped districts. School officials who deal with these children say the numbers are likely to grow next year because of the thousands of families who have lost jobless benefits and other cash assistance…”
  • For Michigan’s homeless students, a storage room of backpacks shows community support, By Jeff Seidel, December 19, 2011, Detroit Free Press: “The small cluttered motel room is filled with all their worldly possessions — bags of clothes from a free clothes locker, a fistful of utensils standing up in a Mason jar, a deep fryer, a toaster oven, a Crock-Pot, a box of food donated from a nearby church, and a backpack that links thousands of homeless children across Michigan. The backpack was given to 11-year-old Amber Phillips by the Macomb Intermediate School District because she is a homeless student. She has been living in this motel for two months..”
  • Covenant House is a haven for Michigan’s homeless students, By Jeff Seidel, December 20, 2011, Detroit Free Press: “Even before the downturn in the economy, there were thousands of homeless children across the state — kids who ran away from home because of family squabbles or because of abuse or because of myriad other reasons. Some children now might have a new reason to run away. ‘Now, we are seeing kids who leave home because they feel their parents can’t afford them anymore and they feel like, ‘I have to go on my own and spare them paying for me,” said Pamela Kies-Lowe, the state coordinator for Homeless Education at the Michigan Department of Education. ‘They are trying to be magnanimous to their families. They strike out on their own and figure out they can’t make it.’ She said even those who leave for reasons of abuse might have an underlying tie to the economy…”
  • Love from new families turns lives around for Michigan’s homeless students, By Jeff Seidel, December 21, 2011, Detroit Free Press: “Traverse City and Adrian are running two of the most unusual programs in the state to help homeless children — families taking in a homeless child for a year so he or she can finish high school. It’s an idea that could be replicated around the state to help agencies already besieged by too many people who need help and not enough money to go around. In both cities, homeless children are placed in mentor homes for the entire school year. Last year, 15 students were in the Traverse City program; all seven seniors graduated. In Adrian, 13 children were in the program last year and all of them also graduated from high school, including two valedictorians. Beth McCullough, who runs the Adrian program, said 87% of the homeless students in the program have gone on to higher education…”

Unemployment and Foreclosure

States slow to tap $7.6B fund to help jobless pay mortgages, By Julie Schmit, September 18, 2011, USA Today: “A $7.6 billion federal program to help homeowners avoid foreclosures had distributed about 1% of its money to distressed owners 16 months after its creation, government reports show. The Obama administration awarded the funds last year to 18 states most affected by unemployment and fallen home prices. The states developed their own foreclosure-prevention programs targeting assistance to lower-income jobless and underemployed homeowners. By June 30, 17 states had used the funds to help about 7,500 homeowners, show reports states filed to the Treasury Department. New Jersey, which began its program in May, started making loans only this month. Funds are flowing more rapidly now, state officials say. All the states have launched their programs. The last was Illinois last week…”

Unemployment and Home Foreclosures

Efforts to spare unemployed from foreclosure stall, By Andrew Martin, June 5, 2011, Boston Globe: “The Obama administration’s main program to keep distressed homeowners from falling into foreclosure has been aimed at those who took out subprime loans or other risky mortgages during the heady days of the housing boom. But these days, the primary cause of foreclosures is unemployment. As a result, there is a mismatch between the homeowner program’s design and the country’s economic realities – and a new round of second-guessing about how best to fix it. The administration’s housing effort includes programs to help unemployed homeowners, but they have been plagued by delays, dubious benefits, and abysmal participation. For example, a Treasury Department effort started in early 2010 allows the jobless to postpone mortgage payments for three months, but the average length of unemployment is now nine months. As of March 31, there were only 7,397 participants…”

Legal Aid and Foreclosures – New York

New York courts vow legal aid in housing, By David Streitfeld, February 15, 2011, New York Times: “New York court officials outlined procedures Tuesday aimed at assuring that all homeowners facing foreclosure were represented by a lawyer, a shift that could give tens of thousands of families a better chance at saving their homes. Criminal defendants are guaranteed a lawyer, but New York will be the first state to try to extend that pledge to foreclosures, which are civil matters. There are about 80,000 active foreclosure cases in New York courts. In more than half of them, only the banks have lawyers…”

Unemployment and Home Foreclosures

US offers mortgage aid to the jobless, By Jenifer B. McKim, October 6, 2010, Boston Globe: “Unemployed homeowners may be able to borrow up to $50,000 to help them make monthly mortgage payments – and in some cases not have to pay the money back – under a federal program unveiled yesterday that allocates $61 million to Massachusetts. The zero-interest loan program will benefit several thousand homeowners in the state who are facing foreclosure because they lost their jobs and have depleted their savings. Nationwide, about $1 billion is being allocated to assist 50,000 homeowners struggling to keep up with their mortgages, said Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development…”

US Census Releases: Recession, Income, and Marriage

  • Census Bureau to release flood of numbers in coming weeks, By Ed O’Keefe, September 29, 2010, Washington Post: “In the coming weeks, Americans will be swimming in statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Remember, the Census Bureau doesn’t just tabulate the nation’s population every decade; it also compiles important economic, employment, educational and demographic statistics that are used for determining such things as the allocation of federal funding, where to build new roads and how to market new products…”
  • Census finds record gap between rich and poor, By Hope Yen (AP), September 28, 2010, Detroit Free Press: “The income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its widest amount on record as young adults and children in particular struggled to stay afloat in the recession. The top-earning 20% of Americans – those making more than $100,000 each year – received 49.4% of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4% earned by those below the poverty line, according to newly released census figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968. A different measure, the international Gini index, found U.S. income inequality at its highest level since the Census Bureau began tracking household income in 1967. The U.S. also has the greatest disparity among Western industrialized nations. At the top, the wealthiest 5% of Americans, who earn more than $180,000, added slightly to their annual incomes last year, census data show. Families at the $50,000 median level slipped lower. ‘Income inequality is rising, and if we took into account tax data, it would be even more,’ said Timothy Smeeding, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who specializes in poverty. ‘More than other countries, we have a very unequal income distribution where compensation goes to the top in a winner-takes-all economy…'”
  • Census: Recession affects all aspects of American life, By Haya El Nasser and Paul Overberg, September 28, 2010, USA Today: “The nation’s financial crisis is altering Americans’ way of life from the home and the workplace to the highway and the altar, according to the Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey out Tuesday. Median household income fell 2.9% from $51,726 in 2008 to $50,221 last year. It dropped in 34 states and increased in only one -North Dakota…”
  • For many adults, marriage can wait, census shows, By Conor Dougherty, September 28, 2010, Wall Street Journal: “Marriage is so over. For the first time in at least a century, the proportion of U.S. adults between 25 and 34 who have never been married last year exceeded those who are married, marking a reversal that follows years of decline in marriage rates, according to data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau. Marriage rates among young adults have been dropping for decades, a decline that accelerated during the 2007-2009 recession that was the longest and deepest since the Great Depression. With stagnant paychecks and a 9.6% unemployment rate, many young adults are delaying marriage until they are better set financially, or forgoing matrimony altogether…”
  • Cohabitation numbers jump 13%, linked to job losses, By Sharon Jayson, September 24, 2010, USA Today: “Cohabitation in the USA is at an all-time high, with the number of opposite-sex couples living together rising 13% in a year’s time, from 6.7 million in 2009 to 7.5 million this year. And, it’s likely because of the recession, according to a U.S. Census study out Thursday. It found a direct connection between living together and the cohabiting partners’ employment status…”

Homeless Families in Shelters

Number of families in shelters rises, By Michael Luo, September 11, 2010, New York Times: “For a few hours at the mall here this month, Nick Griffith, his wife, Lacey Lennon, and their two young children got to feel like a regular family again. Never mind that they were just killing time away from the homeless shelter where they are staying, or that they had to take two city buses to get to the shopping center because they pawned one car earlier this year and had another repossessed, or that the debit card Ms. Lennon inserted into the A.T.M. was courtesy of the state’s welfare program. They ate lunch at the food court, browsed for clothes and just strolled, blending in with everyone else out on a scorching hot summer day. ‘It’s exactly why we come here,’ Ms. Lennon said. ‘It reminds us of our old life.’ For millions who have lost jobs or faced eviction in the economic downturn, homelessness is perhaps the darkest fear of all. In the end, though, for all the devastation wrought by the recession, a vast majority of people who have faced the possibility have somehow managed to avoid it. Nevertheless, from 2007 through 2009, the number of families in homeless shelters – households with at least one adult and one minor child – leapt to 170,000 from 131,000, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development…”

Federal Funding for Housing Aid and Homelessness Prevention

  • Feds offer aid to renters as well as homeowners, By Kathleen Pender, August 15, 2010, San Francisco Chronicle: “Congress and the Obama administration have committed tens of billions of dollars to keep homeowners in their homes. Renters, who make up about one-third of households nationwide – and close to two-thirds in San Francisco and other large cities – wish the government would do a little more for them. For homeowners, Obama’s Making Home Affordable program obtained $50 billion from the Troubled Assets Relief Program plus $25 billion, mainly from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Originally this money was supposed to help homeowners refinance or modify subprime mortgages (which qualified as troubled assets). More recently it has been used to help those who can’t pay their mortgage because they are unemployed. Last week, the Treasury said it is using $2 billion to help unemployed homeowners in 17 states, including California…”
  • Habitat for Humanity uses federal funds to rehab metro Detroit homes, By Tammy Stables Battaglia, August 16, 2010, Detroit Free Press: “Habitat for Humanity, an agency known for building new houses, is using funds from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program to rehab old ones. The program, created in 2008 under President George W. Bush, provides communities and organizations funding to redevelop residential properties. That money must be allocated to projects by Sept. 19. In 2006, seven of 52 Habitat homes in Michigan were rehabs. The organization rehabbed 104 of its 221 homes during the first three months of this year, and there are dozens more projects to be completed, Habitat officials said…”
  • Red tape slows North Texas agencies in disseminating federal funds to fight homelessness, By Neena Satija, August 15, 2010, Dallas Morning News: “Getting federal stimulus money to those in need had a slow start in North Texas, with understaffed agencies bogged down in paperwork. Now that the initiative is in full swing – the job has only gotten harder. North Texas received $25 million for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing program in September. As of March, it had only spent $2 million. Now, it has spent $7 million and helped 7,800 households. But a faster flow of dollars means a bigger maze of red tape…”

Unemployment and Home Foreclosures

  • $3 billion allocated for jobless homeowners, By Julia Love, August 12, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “The Obama administration announced Wednesday that as part of an effort to stabilize housing markets it will send a $3-billion lifeline to jobless homeowners struggling to make mortgage payments. Tapping into resources from the $700-billion Wall Street bailout, the Treasury Department will add $2 billion to its Hardest Hit Fund, assisting the 17 states that have unemployment rates higher than the national average, along with Washington, D.C. California will receive $476 million, the most of any state…”
  • U.S. plans more aid for jobless homeowners, By David Streitfeld, August 11, 2010, New York Times: “In an acknowledgment that the foreclosure crisis is far from over, the Obama administration on Wednesday pumped $3 billion into programs intended to stop the unemployed from losing their homes. The housing market, which usually helps lead the country out of a recession, is this time helping hold the recovery back. Interest rates are at record lows, but too few can afford to buy or refinance. Unemployed homeowners who live in communities where values have fallen sharply are often unable to sell. Their foreclosures weaken neighborhoods and create a vicious circle by further undermining the market…”

Unemployment and Home Foreclosures

Oregon gets federal money to help unemployed avert foreclosures, By Charles Pope, August 4, 2010, The Oregonian: “The Obama administration released $600 million Wednesday to help unemployed homeowners in Oregon and four other states avoid foreclosure. Oregon, where one in every 76 homes is facing foreclosure, qualifies for $88 million.The money will be used to help distressed homeowners. The money will be available to state housing authorities in Oregon, Ohio, South Carolina, Rhode Island and North Carolina “to support local initiatives to assist struggling homeowners in these five states that have high percentages of their population living in areas of economic distress due to unemployment,” the Treasury Department said…”

Mortgage Program For Unemployed Borrowers

Property Trax: Feds provide new help, with local flavor, for unemployed at risk of foreclosure by Karen Rivedal, July 20, 2010, Wisconsin State Journal: “With unemployment rates still stubbornly high and likely to stay that way for awhile, the federal government is offering a new program to help those who aren’t working save their homes. And it bears a striking resemblance in concept to a plan advanced months ago by UW-Madison real estate experts. The federal initiative is known as the Home Affordable Unemployment Program, or HAUP. Consider it a cousin to the fed’s HAMP, the Home Affordable Modification Program, but hope this one does a better job…”

Black Wealth and the Recession – Memphis, TN

Blacks in Memphis lose decades of economic gains, By Michael Powell, May 30, 2010, New York Times: “For two decades, Tyrone Banks was one of many African-Americans who saw his economic prospects brightening in this Mississippi River city. A single father, he worked for FedEx and also as a custodian, built a handsome brick home, had a retirement account and put his eldest daughter through college. Then the Great Recession rolled in like a fog bank. He refinanced his mortgage at a rate that adjusted sharply upward, and afterward he lost one of his jobs. Now Mr. Banks faces bankruptcy and foreclosure. ‘I’m going to tell you the deal, plain-spoken: I’m a black man from the projects and I clean toilets and mop up for a living,’ said Mr. Banks, a trim man who looks at least a decade younger than his 50 years. ‘I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. But my whole life is backfiring.’ Not so long ago, Memphis, a city where a majority of the residents are black, was a symbol of a South where racial history no longer tightly constrained the choices of a rising black working and middle class. Now this city epitomizes something more grim: How rising unemployment and growing foreclosures in the recession have combined to destroy black wealth and income and erase two decades of slow progress…”

Home Foreclosures and Renters – Maryland

More Maryland renters caught amid foreclosure, By Jamie Smith Hopkins, December 30, 2009, Baltimore Sun: “Marjorie Benedum and her husband, Mel Harris, knew their landlord was facing foreclosure but were reassured when he said they could keep renting the Southwest Baltimore house after his family lost it. Then Harris, who is 79 and retired, came home from church three weeks ago to find a sheriff’s notice on the door. Get out in 10 days, it said, or be evicted. ‘We weren’t sure what we were going to do,’ recalled Benedum, 62. More and more renters have been caught up in the national foreclosure crisis, and lenders taking back those homes nearly always want them gone. That has proved tremendously disruptive for the tenants, despite state and federal laws enacted in May to try to ease the pain. Maryland law requires that lenders notify renters before foreclosing on landlords, but – as was the case for Benedum and Harris – the letters do not always get into the right hands…”

Low-wage Work, Unemployment, and Household Debt

  • Unemployment tops 10 percent again _ and it’s tougher off the job than a generation ago, By Jeannine Aversa (AP), November 7, 2009, Chicago Tribune: “It hurts more to be unemployed now than the last time the jobless rate hit 10 percent. Americans have more than triple the debt they had in 1982, and less than half the savings. They spend 10 weeks longer off the job. And a bigger share of them have no health insurance, leaving them one medical emergency away from financial ruin. For these reasons, the unemployed are more vulnerable today to foreclosure and bankruptcy than they were a generation ago…”
  • Debt levels leave low paid at risk of homelessness, By Nick Mathiason, November 11, 2009, The Guardian: “Britain’s 14.3 million low earners are in danger of being sucked into a whirlpool of poverty as official figures are expected to show today that the number of unemployed has passed through 2.5 million for the first time in 15 years. Research by the insurance tycoon Clive Cowdery’s thinktank, Resolution Foundation, shows low-income households – with an average of £15,800 at their disposal – are walking an increasingly precarious financial tightrope. It has found that 24% of low-wage households spend more than a quarter of their monthly income on debt – twice the number from three years ago. The study shows nearly a third of low-income households have high loan-to-value mortgages and are in negative equity, making them vulnerable to homelessness if they lose their job…”

Home Foreclosures and Homelessness

Foreclosures force ex-homeowners to turn to shelters, By Peter S. Goodman, October 18, 2009, New York Times: “The first night after she surrendered her house to foreclosure, Sheri West endured the darkness in her Hyundai sedan. She parked in her old driveway, with her flower-print dresses and hats piled in boxes on the back seat, and three cherished houseplants on the floor. She used her backyard as a restroom. The second night, she stayed with a friend, and so it continued for more than a year: Ms. West – mother of three grown children, grandmother to six and great-grandmother to one – passed months on the couches of friends and relatives, and in the front seat of her car. But this fall, she exhausted all options. She had once owned and overseen a group home for homeless people. Now, she succumbed to that status herself, checking in to a shelter…”

Unemployment and Home Foreclosures

Unemployment spike compounds foreclosure crisis, By Renae Merle, August 18, 2009, Washington Post: “The country’s growing unemployment is overtaking subprime mortgages as the main driver of foreclosures, according to bankers and economists, threatening to send even higher the number of borrowers who will lose their homes and making the foreclosure crisis far more complicated to unwind. Economists estimate that 1.8 million borrowers will lose their homes this year, up from 1.4 million last year, according to Moody’s Economy.com. And the government, which has already committed billions of dollars to foreclosure-prevention efforts, has found it far more difficult to help people who have lost their paychecks than those whose mortgage payments became unaffordable because of an interest-rate increase…”