Foreclosures mark pace of enduring U.S. housing crisis

Wed Oct 7, 2009 8:40pm EDT
 
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By Tom Brown

MIAMI (Reuters) - Every 13 seconds in America, there is another foreclosure filing.

That's the rhythm of a crisis that threatens to choke off hopes for a recovery in the U.S. housing market as it destroys hundreds of billions of dollars in property values a year.

There are more than 6,600 home foreclosure filings per day, according to the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonpartisan watchdog group based in Durham, North Carolina. With nearly two million already this year, the flood of foreclosures shows no sign of abating any time soon.

If anything, the country's worst housing downturn since record-keeping began in the late 19th century may only get worse since foreclosures, which started with subprime borrowers, have now moved on to the much bigger prime loan market on the back of mounting unemployment.

In congressional testimony last month Michael Barr, the Treasury Department's assistant secretary for financial institutions, said more than 6 million families could face foreclosure over the next three years.

"The recent crisis in the housing sector has devastated families and communities across the country and is at the center of our financial crisis and economic downturn," Barr said.

A September report by a foreclosure task force appointed by Florida's Supreme Court pointed to a shift in the root cause of foreclosures: "People are no longer defaulting simply because of a change in the payment structure of their loan. They are defaulting because of lost jobs or reduced hours or pay."

Florida had the nation's highest rate of homes -- 23 percent -- that were either in foreclosure or delinquent on mortgage payments in the second quarter, and the report said "the latest news for Florida is horrifying."   Continued...

 
<p>An empty mail box is seen at the front door of a foreclosed house in Miami Gardens, Florida in this September 15, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Files</p>