Connecticut Plagued By Soaring Foreclosure Rate

fromWSHU

In the U.S. last month, home foreclosures fell to the lowest level since the mortgage crisis began eight years ago. But in Connecticut, and several other states, foreclosures are still rising dramatically.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK. We're seeing more signs of recovery in the housing market. Last month, foreclosure filings dropped to their lowest levels since the housing crisis hit in 2007. And overall home prices are up nationwide. But recovery is not the narrative everywhere. In some states like Connecticut, foreclosures in 2013 have been up significantly over the year before.

Reporter Kaomi Goetz of member station WSHU has the story.

KAOMI GOETZ, BYLINE: Holly House has shoulder-length red hair, a big smile and a trusting demeanor. She sits in front of a stack of papers and has no problem talking about one of the biggest messes of her life.

HOLLY HOUSE: My situation is, I'm trying to save my home.

GOETZ: The 45-year-old divorced mother of three was the first one to arrive for a recent foreclosure clinic in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It's run by a nonprofit that helps people hang onto their homes. Holly House's ex-husband left her with a loan on a multi-family home with a dollar amount that's way over her head.

HOUSE: The loan was over $400,000 and the house is only worth $155.

GOETZ: This year, Connecticut is getting hit with 2,000 new foreclosures each month. That's 200 more a month than last year. That's a dramatic difference from much of the country.

DAREN BLOMQUIST: The decline that we saw in November was the biggest month over month drop that we've seen in those three years.

GOETZ: Daren Blomquist is an analyst for data firm RealtyTrac. It just put out its monthly foreclosure report. And last month, the number of foreclosure starts nationwide dropped by a third to just under 53,000. Here in Connecticut, it's going the other way. Foreclosure filings are up by more than a third.

Blomquist says Maryland, Pennsylvania and about a dozen others are in the same boat. But why is that? He says it's because they actually tried to do something about the foreclosure crisis early on. For example, Connecticut started mediation programs to help homeowners and lenders work out their problems. But in some cases, that just delayed the inevitable. It created a backlog of cases that are now hitting the system.

BLOMQUIST: I would say there is something tying them all together. It's primarily states that I would say kicked the can down the road with the foreclosure problem in a sense.

GOETZ: And it doesn't help that Connecticut is a judicial foreclosure state - tying the process to the courts. That can drag out a foreclosure to two years in Connecticut. In states like Arizona that don't involve the courts, foreclosure rates are dropping. It typically takes only several months to complete a foreclosure there. Connecticut lawmakers defend their system. Carlo Leone, a Democratic state senator, ways the extra time helps homeowners.

STATE SENATOR CARLO LEONE: From a bank's perspective, it lengthens the time frame for them to get foreclosures off their books. So for them it's a negative. But for homeowners to go through the process, and those that are able to stay in their homes, it's actually a positive process.

GOETZ: Homeowners have more time to gather the necessary paperwork. Court mediators make sure the same bank negotiators remain on cases. And that will be a big help for homeowner Holly House. She says her mortgage lender so far refuses to work with her because she's too far in debt. She's hoping a mediator will at least get them talking.

For NPR News, I'm Kaomi Goetz.

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