Tax-Aided Nonprofit Reportedly Trains Homeless as Squatters

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A New York City homeless advocacy group that has reportedly received at least $240,000 in municipal funds in the last five years is reportedly teaching people how to squat in vacant city properties.

The New York Post says that Andres Perez, a board member of the nonprofit, Picture the Homeless, recently instructed about 20 people in the ways of "homesteading," or permanently occupying a vacant property.

"You make sure you have your proper tools," he reportedly said during the unlikely workshop. "You remove the chains and padlock, and then you go in."

Perez was purportedly teaching how to gain residential footholds in Arlington Village, a housing complex in East New York where residents told the Post they already have trouble from uninvited occupants, including crack-smoking prostitutes.

"The best properties are city-owned properties or bank-owned properties," Perez reportedly said. "They warehouse these properties. They're sitting on them."

Instances of squatting appear to have spiked during the housing crisis, which has claimed the homes of more than 3 million Americans who defaulted on their loans.

"You have these abandoned dwellings that are sitting there vacant, sometimes for many months," Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless in New York told the Los Angeles Times in December. "The fact is that people are desperate for places to live, and they're going to do what they need to do."

Squatting has also gained recognition as an Occupy Wall Street protest tactic. Occupy protesters launched "Occupy Our Homes," in December, an anti-foreclosure offensive that protesters wage largely through occupying foreclosed homes.

"We've developed a model that I hope will become a national model for how this works," said Anthony Newby, an organizer who collaborated with an Occupy Minneapolis to stage a sit-in at the home of a foreclosed-on vet in February. "We want to identify homeowners who are going to foreclosure, and then we just leverage the momentum of Occupy to create community support for people in crisis."

While some might view squatting as a necessity for some Americans down on their luck these days, it's also been characterized as an attempt by scam artists to skirt the law.

A Texas man, Kenneth Robinson recently paid $16 to file a claim to a house worth more than $340,000, asserting that a loophole in state law enabled him to take up residence in the home because no owner was present. Others reportedly used the same tactic to fraudulently lay claim to a $2.7 million mansion and other properties in Texas under "adverse possession." Robinson managed to stay in the home for six months before Bank of America persuaded a judge to order his eviction.

In the case of Andres Perez and Picture the Homeless, a New York City Council spokeswoman told the Post that teaching a homesteading class could mean the end of city funding for the nonprofit.

"We're deeply troubled by reports that Picture the Homeless is instructing New Yorkers in how to engage in dangerous and illegal activities," spokeswoman Robin Levine was quoted as saying. "If these reports are in fact true, they call the group's entire funding into question."

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10 Cities Getting Slammed by Foreclosures
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Tax-Aided Nonprofit Reportedly Trains Homeless as Squatters

Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +32%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 2,273
Unemployment: 7.6%
% home value down from peak: -12.42%

Columbus hit its median home value peak in the first quarter of 2006. Since that time, home values have declined a relatively modest 12.4%, including a 3.4% drop last year. By the second quarter of 2012, Fiserv projects that homes in the area will lose another 2.3% of their value. Median family income in Columbus is above the national average, and unemployment is just 8%, a full percentage point less than the national average. Despite the fact that things don’t look so bad for the Columbus housing market compared to other regions, the city foreclosure rate still increased by 32% last quarter. A total of 2,273 homes were foreclosed upon during that time.

See foreclosed homes for sale in Columbus, Ohio

Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +35%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,743
Unemployment: 11.2%
% home value down from peak: -59.3%

There is arguably no single housing market with a worse long-term outlook than southwest Florida, and the Cape Coral-Fort Myers region is the worst of these. Housing prices in the have already dropped 59.3% from their peak, and Fiserv project them to decline another 12.2% by the second quarter of next year. According to Corelogic, 47% of the homes in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area are worth less than their mortgages because of declining values. Foreclosures have increased 35% in the last quarter, and with no sign of recovery in the immediate future that trend may worsen in the coming months.

See foreclosed homes for sale in Fort Myers, Fla.

Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +36%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,348
Unemployment: 11%
% home value down from peak: -59.1%

As of last month, Vallejo-Fairfield had the second-highest foreclosure rate in the country, with one out of every 51 homes being foreclosed upon in the third quarter of this year. This was a 36% increase in foreclosures from the second quarter. Home values have dropped 7.5% in the past year and are projected by Fiserv to drop an additional 4.9% by the second quarter of 2012. A remarkable 53% of homes in the region are worth less than their mortgages. This is the seventh highest rate of homes with underwater mortgages in the country.

See foreclosed homes for sale in Fairfield, Calif.

Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +41%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 2,174
Unemployment: 14.9%
% home value down from peak: -54%

Fresno’s economy has continued to suffer since housing prices began to drop in 2006. It currently has an unemployment rate of 14.9%, which is one of the highest in the country. Home prices peaked in the first quarter of 2006 and have been decreasing since. The metropolitan area also has one of the highest underwater mortgage rates in the country, with a negative equity share of nearly 46%. In the last year alone home prices have dropped 11%.

See foreclosed homes for sale in Fresno, Calif.

Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +44%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,039
Unemployment: 11.6%
% home value down from peak: -53.4%

More than 1,000 homes were foreclosed upon in the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville region last quarter, a 44% increase from the previous three-month period. Nearly half of the region’s homes are worth less than their mortgages. With Fiserv projecting home values would drop 7.1% by next year and another 4.9% the year after that, things may just get even worse.

See foreclosed homes for sale in Titusville, Fla.

Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +49%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 2,559
Unemployment: 9.5%
% home value down from peak: -39.3%

Jacksonville has experienced a quarterly increase in foreclosures of nearly 50%. Home prices have dropped 39.1% since their peak in the second quarter of 2006. The metropolitan area’s negative equity share also exceeds 46%, making it among the worst in the country for underwater mortgages. Home prices are expected to decrease another 10.7% by the second quarter of 2012.

See foreclosed homes for sale in Jacksonville, Fla.

Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +55%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,956
Unemployment: 8.7%
% home value down from peak: -15.9%

Nearly 2,000 homes were foreclosed upon during the last quarter, a 55% increase from the previous three months. Unlike many of the regions on this list with accelerating home foreclures, Cincinnati’s local economy is doing fairly well. Home prices are only down 15.9% from their peak in the first quarter of 2006. Unemployment and median family income are both better than average. One possible explanation for this recent increase may be that nearly a third of the total decline in home value since the peak has occurred in the past 12 months.

See foreclosed homes for sale in Cincinnati, Ohio

Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +57%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,673
Unemployment: 11%
% home value down from peak: -51.4%

The Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice metropolitan area has seen the third largest increase in the country in foreclosures in the third quarter. However, only 1,673 homes out of the 311,475 on the market were foreclosed upon. The housing market has suffered a great deal since housing prices peaked in the first quarter of 2006. Since then, overall home prices have dropped 51.4%.

See foreclosed homes for sale in Venice, Fla.

Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +67%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 2,003
Unemployment: 6.6%
% home value down from peak: -15.8%

The Boston metropolitan area is considered to have a particularly resilient housing market. In the most recent quarter, however, foreclosures have increased 67%. Home prices have only dropped 15.8% since they peaked in the third quarter of 2005. The national average is -32.3%. From the second quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of 2011, home prices dropped a mere 1.7%.

See foreclosed homes for sale in Boston, Mass

Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +151%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,358
Unemployment: 6.9%
% home value down from peak: -14.9%

Albuquerque’s housing market, like Boston’s, is relatively healthy. While home prices decreased 32.3% nationally after their peak, home prices in Albuquerque only decreased 14.9% since they peaked. Regardless, foreclosures have recently skyrocketed. In the third quarter of 2011, the number of foreclosures in Albuquerque increased 151%. According to New Mexico Business Weekly, the lack of job creation in the area has been a major contributor to this problem.

See foreclosed homes for sale in Albuquerque, N.M.

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See also:
Up in Smoke: House Fire Reveals Huge Marijuana Operation

Vacant House Targeted by Squatters, Scammers and Thieves

Alleged Squatters Found With Drugs, Handgun, Grenades, Pig


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