Florida City Opens Foreclosure Help Center

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - In a state where foreclosures are up nearly 70 percent from a year ago, this South Florida city is doing what it can to help keep people in their homes.

The city on Tuesday will open a foreclosure assistance center in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help homeowners renegotiate mortgage payments, repair damaged credit, and, in some cases, provide a direct payment of $10,000 to people behind on their loans.

As housing markets slump nationwide, cities across the country are scrambling to work with residents who are in danger of losing their homes to foreclosures. Daylong fairs, where lenders and counselors offer advice to desperate homeowners, have occurred in Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, and dozens of other cities and towns.

In February, Florida trailed only Nevada and California in the percentage of homes in foreclosure. RealtyTrac Inc. said 32,447 homes were in foreclosure statewide in February, up more than 69 percent from February of last year and up more than 7 percent from January.

The new center in West Palm Beach will be free of charge and open weekdays. The $1 million program will be financed with $650,000 from a developer-funded city trust and about $350,000 in HUD grant money.

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The center also will help financially stressed homeowners sell their homes through what's known as a "short sale," where the home is sold for less than the amount owed on the mortgage but a foreclosure is avoided.

The city has partnered with financial institutions to buy the homes.

"Then the city will place the purchased houses in our affordable housing program making potential buyers eligible for down payment and closing cost assistance," said city spokesman Chase Scott.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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