Cleveland Habitat Threatens Foreclosures

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January 26, 2012; Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer | This is a strange story in its tone. Apparently Habitat for Humanity in Cleveland is advertising the fact that, unless 25 homeowners who are more than 36 months behind on their mortgages pay the debt, protest the debt amount, or get counseling and help in accessing government aid, the organization is planning on foreclosing on their homes.

John Habat, Habitat’s executive director in Cleveland, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Thursday that the homeowners will be sent a letter within two weeks warning them of the action. “This time they’re going to see we’re serious,” Habat said.

Habitat has built only 160 houses in the area in the last twenty years and has already foreclosed on eight. Nationally, Habitat reportedly has a foreclosure rate of only 2 percent.

Additionally, all eight of the properties already foreclosed on by Habitat in Cleveland are still empty—a practice considered to place neighborhoods at risk. The organization has not put necessary rehab money into those homes. Cleveland already suffers from an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 abandoned homes but the organization is still planning on building “maybe three more houses” in the near future.

With its significant involvement in HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, Habitat has been playing an outsized role across the nation in recovering and redeveloping foreclosed homes for occupancy by lower income households. But Habitat is also a developer and a lender, and the problems families have in paying their mortgages can even extend down to owners of the almost no-interest Habitat homes, resulting in an increasing pattern of foreclosures in areas with significant foreclosure dynamics such as Indianapolis, Georgia, and now, in larger numbers than reported by Habitat chapters elsewhere, Cleveland.—Ruth McCambridge