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March 22, 2010; New York Times | Usually when foreclosures come to pass, displaced homeowners move on. But thanks to a trio comprising a nonprofit lender, a housing advocacy organization, and a group of volunteer law students, some lucky residents in the Boston area are ending up back in their homes.

Described by the New York Times as the “brainchild” of Boston Community Capital (B.C.C.), the nonprofit lender has recently started buying homes after they’ve been foreclosed and selling or renting them back to the previous owners at affordable rates.  The Times reports that since late fall, B.C.C. has “completed or nearly completed deals on 50 homes, with an additional 20 in progress.”  Now it is aiming to raise $50 million to expand the program.

Success is not B.C.C.’s alone, though.  City Life/Vida Urbana, a local housing advocacy group helps prime the pump for banks to sell their distressed properties to B.C.C. by organizing protests or blockades outside home where owners have received eviction notices. The group also puts people facing foreclosure in contact with students at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.

According to Dave Grossman, director, banks are told they’ll face a prolonged legal battle and higher eviction costs if they don’t deal.  So far, the program has concentrated its efforts in Dorchester, where the 40 percent drop in home prices between 2005 and 2007 is twice that of the statewide average, as are foreclosures and delinquencies.

Typically once residents are evicted, the vacant homes are invitations to crime, continuing driving down housing prices in distressed neighborhoods.  According to B.C.C’s Patricia Hanratty, that’s why it’s “in the lenders’ interest to get fair market value as quickly as possible, and in the interest of the community to have as little displacement as possible.”   Hanratty also said that banks seem more motivated to deal after a property is on it way to or in foreclosure then when the process is just beginning.  “Banks really do not want to hold on to these properties because they don’t know how to manage them, don’t know what to do with them.”  If this works in Boston, why not elsewhere?—Bruce Trachtenberg

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