Pennsylvania foreclosure filings rose 24 percent from January 2011

Posted: February 16, 2012

Pennsylvania experienced a sharp jump in foreclosure filings in January, almost 24 percent higher than the same month in 2011, according to a report to be released Thursday by RealtyTrac, which tracks such data nationwide.

The state is ranked 27th in the country, with one filing for every 1,219 homes. Yet 90-day delinquency notices, which begin the foreclosure process, rose 112 percent year-over-year, a 15-month high, RealtyTrac said.

In New Jersey, filings fell more than 68 percent in January from the year-before levels. It ranks 39th among the 50 states, with one filing for every 2,049 houses.

Nationally, filings increased 3 percent year-over-year. Foreclosure rates in California, Arizona, and Nevada remained the highest, even though those states saw declines in filings over the year.

"We continue to see signs on a local and regional level that the frozen-up foreclosure process is beginning to thaw," said Brandon Moore, chief executive of RealtyTrac. "Foreclosure activity increased on a year-over-year basis for the first time in more than 12 months in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania."

The rise in 90-day delinquencies in Pennsylvania during 2011 coincided with the end of the state's highly touted Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP), which provided loans to borrowers behind on their mortgages that were repaid either when their financial crises ended or within 24 months.

In 2010, 13,654 homeowners applied for the assistance, and 2,798 were approved, said John Dodds, director of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project.

"All of those who applied were informed of housing counseling, and many probably had their mortgage modified or were otherwise able to save their homes," Dodds said Wednesday.

Funding for HEMAP, which began in 1983, ended in August, as did the Act 91 requirement that defaulting borrowers be sent notices by lenders informing them of the program and available counseling assistance, Dodds said.

For part of 2011, he said, the federal Emergency Homeowner Loan Program, which was modeled on HEMAP, funded these emergency loans. That Housing and Urban Development-funded program, which the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency administered, ended Sept. 30, after approving 3,056 homeowners for emergency help.

"Without these programs, the increase in foreclosures would have been greater, and since Sept. 30 no direct-aid program has been available in Pennsylvania," Dodds said.

Last week, Gov. Corbett included no funding for HEMAP in his proposed 2012-13 budget.

A research brief published last week by the Reinvestment Fund showed that from 2008 to 2010 HEMAP saved more than 6,100 homeowners from foreclosure. Had the program not existed, the report said, "Pennsylvania's foreclosure rate would have been higher and its rank among states several rungs worse."

According to the report, the number of homes saved amounted to 4.6 percent to 5.1 percent of the state's total foreclosure inventory.

Government estimates show that the costs of foreclosures are shared among lenders (64.6 percent), local government (24.7 percent), homeowners (9.2 percent), and neighbors, whose homes also lose value because of proximity to a bank repossession (1.9 percent).

By reducing Pennsylvania's foreclosure rate by 6,100 homes, the report estimates, $480 million was saved - $170 million of that in Philadelphia and its four suburban counties.

Governments in those five counties saved $42 million and neighbors $3 million, according to the Reinvestment Fund study. Among the costs saved were those for repair and marketing of property for resale, lost tax revenue, police and fire calls to vacant properties, the administrative expenses of foreclosures, legal fees, and loss in value of surrounding properties.

The full report is available at http://goo.gl/dP7Ah.


Contact real estate writer Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472, aheavens@phillynews.com, or @alheavens at Twitter.

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