The Ugly Face of Foreclosure

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NEW YORK -- Foreclosures are devastating communities across the United States, and the impact may only worsen as more subprime adjustable mortgages reset during the next few months.
Foreclosure filings are up 35 percent nationwide since a year ago, according to RealtyTrac.
Even in prosperous Sunbelt places like Pima County, Ariz., which includes Tucson, foreclosures climbed 51 percent in just two years.
Maryellen Hayden, executive director of the Pittsburgh


NEW YORK -- Foreclosures are devastating communities across the United States, and the impact may only worsen as more subprime adjustable mortgages reset during the next few months.

Foreclosure filings are up 35 percent nationwide since a year ago, according to RealtyTrac.

Even in prosperous Sunbelt places like Pima County, Ariz., which includes Tucson, foreclosures climbed 51 percent in just two years.

Maryellen Hayden, executive director of the Pittsburgh office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), reports that foreclosures have skyrocketed in Allegheny County from 1,287 in 1996 to 4,944 in 2006.

Home Price Forecasts for 100 Markets

In Slavic Village, a working-class Cleveland neighborhood of about 11,000 homes, 600 of them are vacant and boarded up, according to City Councilman Tony Branchatelli.

"Foreclosures have helped destabilize not only Cleveland neighborhoods but inner ring suburbs like Shaker Heights and Euclid as well," said Jim Rokakis, treasurer of Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, one of the hardest-hit U.S. cities.

And the worst may be yet to come. Rokakis said Cuyahoga County is on track for 16,000 foreclosures this year, up from about 3,500 annually in Cleveland during the mid-1990s.

The impact can reach far beyond the affected homeowners. Rokakis says streets lined with foreclosures look like "mouths with teeth knocked out of them."

In places like Slavic Village, according to Branchatelli, you can't go down a single street without seeing at least one vacant house.

On some Pittsburgh streets, reports Hayden, every fifth or sixth house is boarded up.

Dan Immergluck, associate professor of city and regional planning at Georgia Tech, said that for every foreclosure within an eighth of a mile of a house - two and a half city blocks in every direction -- the home's value drops by about 1 percent.

The vacancies look bad enough, but it's what happens next that really hurts.

"The bad people in a community find out right away when a house has been foreclosed on," said Hayden. "They come in and steal the copper plumbing. I've even seen them strip the aluminum siding off to sell. The houses become havens for drug dealers."

Fighting those problems off, stabilizing the community and redeveloping blighted areas are a challenge for cash-starved municipalities.

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