Massachusetts foreclosures on pace to eclipse high 2008 levels

Fueled by persistently high unemployment rates, completed foreclosures
surged 56.7 percent over the first half of the year, placing
foreclosures on pace to surpass their recent high in 2008, according to
figures released Tuesday morning.

In June, 1,313 foreclosure deeds were executed and completed
foreclosures this year totaled 7,431 and were up in every county except
Nantucket, according to the Warren Group. In 2008, 12,430 foreclosures
were completed in Massachusetts, including 6,707 during the first six
months of 2008.

“Foreclosures which were initiated a year ago are now being
completed, and the figures are staggering,” Warren Group CEO Timothy
Warren said in a statement. “We are on pace to exceed the peak
foreclosure level seen in 2008 when more than 12,000 homeowners
statewide lost their homes to foreclosure.”

Foreclosure deeds during the first half of 2010 were up by more
than 60 percent in several counties, including Barnstable (74 percent),
Berkshire (62 percent), Bristol (65 percent), Franklin (168 percent),
Hampden (70 percent), Hampshire (107 percent), Plymouth (62 percent)
and Worcester (84 percent).

Aaron Gornstein, executive director of Citizens Housing and
Planning Association Inc. (CHAPA), said foreclosures in the pipeline
lead him to believe the state will hit 15,000 foreclosures this year, a
total that he said could eclipse foreclosure figures during 1990 and
1991, one of the state’s deepest recessions.

“We’re on pace for record foreclosures in 2010,” said Gornstein. “It’s an astounding number.”

Initiated foreclosures, the first step in the foreclosure process,
dropped 3.4 percent in Massachusetts over the first half of the year,
compared to the first half of 2009.

“We have been averaging just over 2,200 foreclosure petitions a
month this year compared to about 2,300 a month last year,” Warren said.

The Warren Group began collecting full-year foreclosure statistics
in 2006, when 3,130 foreclosures were reported. That number rose to
7,653 in 2007, to 12,430 in 2008 and down to 9,269 in 2009.

Gornstein, of CHAPA, called on the House to take up legislation
passed by the Senate that would help delay foreclosures by requiring an
extra 60 days to work out loan modifications, protect tenants of
foreclosed properties and criminalize willful acts of mortgage fraud.

Many tenants who are up to date on rent payments face displacement
when their landlords face foreclosure, Gornstein said. “We see the
tenants as just innocent victims here,” he said. “The crisis is far
from over.”

While subprime lending and overextended borrowers were behind the
wave of foreclosures two years ago, Gornstein said high unemployment,
and high numbers of underemployed individuals, are driving the latest
rounds of foreclosures, which he said can fuel crime, vandalism and
neighborhood problems.

House leaders have delivered positive signals about the bill,
Gornstein said, but the legislation is competing with sweeping
gambling, economic development, crime and other bills, with formal
sessions set to end July 31.

“Because there’s so many other things up there pending, it’s
difficult to know” if the bill will advance, he said, adding, “We think
there’s a lot of support for this.”

The bill has been pending in the House Ways and Means Committee
since early May after clearing the Senate unanimously in late April.

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