Real Estate

Foreclosure Response isnt coming back

August 27, 2012
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The three-year-old project known as Foreclosure Response has officially ended, at least in its current form.

The project was primarily the brainchild of Kym Spring, who served as its executive director and point person. It came about in response to the local housing crisis that actually began before the subprime mortgage catastrophe nearly five years ago.

A growing number of homeowners in the county had already lost or were facing the loss of their houses before September 2007. That was the month federal officials finally admitted the nation’s housing market wasn’t the economic driver it had been lauded to be, but only after they had ignored the bubble warnings years earlier.

Prior to 2007, the GVSU Community Research Institute, one of the organizations that worked closely with Spring on the project, revealed that bank foreclosures in the county had gone from 1,151 in 2004 to 1,398 in 2005 to 2,384 in 2006. Those were the years the state was still in the recession that began in 2001. It was also a time when Michigan led the nation in job loss.

Spring made the rounds to local agencies and governments in 2009 to enlist support and funding for the project, after she began working on it the previous July. The response she received to her requests was good enough to start Foreclosure Response to alleviate the problem through a collaboration with other agencies such as Home Repair Services.

In the two years before the project began, the problem worsened: Another 6,800 county homeowners received foreclosure notices from their lenders in 2007 and 2008. Organizations such as Kent County, the Dyer Ives Foundation, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and others stepped forward to lend a hand.

“The funders that supported this work originally designed this project as a two-year program and decided to continue the funding for a third year, but not beyond,” Spring said in an e-mail to the Business Journal.

“It was always envisioned as a critical, temporary response to a foreclosure crisis, predicted as also temporary. No one anticipated the extent of the financial crisis, and foreclosures do continue to cripple homeowners and communities,” she added.

Spring told the Business Journal that one of the project’s last activities was to work with Kent County to secure enough funding to allow the Community Research Institute to continue collecting and analyzing foreclosure data through May 2015. The institute provides semi-annual updates on the data; Spring said the most recent was done in June.

The institute’s update, which is based on data from the county’s Bureau of Equalization, revealed the year began with a spike in mortgage foreclosures that followed a couple of periods that showed noticeable decreases.

The institute said there were 525 foreclosure actions in the first quarter of this year, or 8 percent more than the final quarter of last year when there were 482.

But the 1,007 foreclosures over the past six months were 15 percent fewer than the previous six-month-total of 1,166. And although there were 2,173 foreclosures over the past dozen months, that figure was a third less than the previous 12-month period of 2,902. For a while it looked like the foreclosures were easing, but the first-quarter numbers say otherwise.

As for the overall picture, the institute reported there have been 19,829 residential foreclosures in the county since 2004, while 855 homes were in a redemption period. CRI summed up the current foreclosure situation by noting, “In 2004, one in every 157 single-family homes in Kent County was foreclosed. By 2012, the cumulative effect was one in every nine single-family homes in Kent County had foreclosed.”

Spring said a final report was being written and would be available in the fall. She also explained what else is in the works now that Foreclosure Response is done.

“Commitments from the funders have also allowed the website to remain operational, and in the next couple of months it will be updated. Additionally, we are exploring retaining someone to produce e-newsletters in the near future,” she said.

“These efforts are a far cry from reviving Foreclosure Report, but will still provide a lot of benefits to the community, and at no cost to the public.”

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