In the Eye of the Storm: Why the Threat of Foreclosure Damage Continues

Shannon Sswiatek March 19, 2015

When It Comes to Foreclosures, the Storm Is Not Over for Many Rochester Area Neighborhoods – Particularly Neighborhoods of Color

In the Eye of the Storm: Why the Threat of Foreclosure Damage Continues details the state of the foreclosure crisis in Rochester, NY, as well as all of New York State, and its impact on neighborhoods and municipalities.

Some of the key findings are:

  • The foreclosure crisis is unlikely to be over for some time in Rochester, in Monroe County, and across the State of New York.
  • Delays in the foreclosure process in Monroe County are most often caused by the banks themselves and their attorneys.
  • Foreclosures in Monroe County are most heavily concentrated in communities of color, disproportionately affecting African-American and Latino homeowners and neighborhoods. One-half of African-American and 37% of Latino homeowners live in the top 20% of Monroe County neighborhoods most impacted by foreclosures.
  • Prolonged foreclosures contribute to the city’s problem of vacant housing.
  • Increasing numbers of investor-owned properties in foreclosure are becoming vacant, while simultaneously, more investor-owned houses are going into foreclosure.
  • Abandonment, often made worse by delays created by mortgage holders, is shifting the costs of maintenance and disposition to cities.
  • Recent federal efforts to sell pools of bad loans to investor groups may make the burdens faced by cities worse, unless those purchasers are held accountable for the disposition of the low-value properties in the packages.

The report draws conclusions from local data that are relevant at the state and federal levels, and recommends policies to prevent foreclosures and to mitigate the problems caused by “zombie homes” and other vacant properties in foreclosure.

The report makes specific recommendations to:

  • Maximize continued occupancy of homeowner properties.
  • Provide better information and data to municipalities so they can evaluate, prepare for and monitor problem properties.
  • Give municipalities improved tools and funding to pursue proactive neighborhood stabilization strategies.

One recommendation is the establishment of a statewide fund, like the Community Restoration Fund (CRF) called for by New Yorkers for Responsible Lending (NYRL), to help homeowners avoid foreclosure and to stabilize neighborhoods.  Such a fund would do two things: (1) It would acquire distressed properties to rehabilitate for new owners or demolish if beyond repair; and (2) it would acquire distressed mortgages so homeowners could get affordable modifications and stay in their homes.

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