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Foreclosure Rates Up In Unexpected Areas

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Foreclosure Rates Up In Unexpected Areas

Economy

Foreclosure Rates Up In Unexpected Areas

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

We've heard quite a bit about the places hardest hit by home foreclosures -Florida, Southern California, Las Vegas - but new housing data show the foreclosure rate accelerating in unexpected parts of the country, places like Oregon, Idaho, and Illinois. Economists say this second wave is not the result of loose lending practices and over development, rather it's the product of the recession and job losses. From Oregon Public Broadcasting, Ethan Lindsey reports.

ETHAN LINDSEY: Nick Bostic(ph) sits on a deck chair in the backyard of his mother's house outside Portland. Bostic remembers the pool parties he used to have here in high school. He says there are good stories in this house.

Mr. NICK BOSTIC: Oh, a big project with Dad and Mom and everybody out here was to build a three-story kitty condo basically that we cut a hole through the wall of the house and the cats could go up into their little condo and they had windows so they could see everything going on outside. It's definitely a lot of fun, a good, fun project for the whole family to kind of do together.

LINDSEY: But now his family may lose the home, kitty condo and all. Bostic's father passed away last year and Nick's mother doesn't make enough to cover the monthly payments. The home mortgage is a safe 30-year fixed payment plan. Nick decided to be the good son. He'd pay his mom's mortgage as well as his own. Then things changed at work.

Mr. BOSTIC: I took a pay cut back in October and that basically was kind of the point when I realized I wasn't going to be able to make payments on my own house and her house.

LINDSEY: For a while, people in the Northwest had believed this state would avoid many of the housing bubble excesses.

Mr. TIM DUY (Economist, University of Oregon): Oregon's housing market in general was really lagging in the U.S. market.

LINDSEY: Tim Duy is an economist at the University of Oregon.

Mr. DUY: And this, I think, led a lot of people to a false confidence, a sense of complacency, that we were going to somehow escape the problems going on in the rest of the nation.

LINDSEY: Then the recession expanded beyond the housing market and hit many local industries. The unemployment rate shot up. It's at 9.9 percent right now, the highest point in 25 years. Bostic says he feels lucky to have a job, many friends and neighbors don't.

Mr. BOSTIC: I do marketing and there's a lot of marketing people right now looking for jobs.

LINDSEY: And with unemployment has come foreclosure. Call it the second wave. Rick Sharga is with the foreclosure research firm, RealtyTrac.

Mr. RICK SHARGA (RealtyTrac): States that had previously not experienced severe foreclosure problems are now suddenly vulnerable.

LINDSEY: He says before the housing bubble years, he used to be able to put unemployment and foreclosure graphs next to each other and they'd match up.

Mr. SHARGA: Historically most foreclosures are due to things like divorce and medical illness and job loss. It's only this most recent cycle where we've seen foreclosures really driven by bad lending practices and overpriced housing.

LINDSEY: And now, over a year into the recession, Sharga says the graphs have begun to match up again. And that's bad news for states like Oregon, Idaho, and Illinois. All three saw a steep rise in foreclosures the past few months, just as their unemployment rates rose.

On the back deck of his mother's house, Nick Bostic says he thinks things will get worse here in Oregon as well because it's not just his mother's house for sale, it's next door, it's down the block, it seems like every other house in the neighborhood. Bostic says he hasn't made a payment on the home in six months. The bank's exploring a short sale, but Bostic says that seems unlikely.

Mr. BOSTIC: People have made offers on the kitty condo, but not on the house yet.

LINDSEY: For NPR News, I'm Ethan Lindsey in Beaverton, Oregon.

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