Thursday, October 02, 2008

Foreclosure watch

So last month the news was that foreclosures in the region dropped a non-trivial 29%. This month the news is again that foreclosures dropped. I hate to be a broken record, but a lot of places comparable to Pittsburgh are seeing foreclosures this year at a rate 10 times higher (or more) than what is normal for them. We are debating whether maybe, possibly, if certain trends hold, or we measure in base 5, then we will come in a marginal amount above last years rate. You will never get that perspective from 90% of the press coverage on this that I have seen... or no more than a sentence of caveat to the facts before jumping into the more bombastic stories that are heart wrenching for the folks involved in foreclosures, but unjustifiably fear-inducing for most others... and for Pittsburgh, a fear that is unjustified as yet. I have talked to folks who are not behind at all in their mortgage payments, nor expect to be anytime soon, have had no change in their employment situation, nor any other economic calamity of late, but somehow think they have to worry about their lender trying to foreclose on them out of the blue sometime soon. Why? I believe it's the coverage. Isn't there enough bad financial news to worry people with?

But even so help is on the way. Little Not noticed in the media locally last week, HUD allocated $2 million to the city of Pittsburgh and $5.5 million to Allegheny County for its foreclosure-related Neighborhood Stabilization Program. They seem to have based their allocation within a state at least in part by a metric of foreclosure starts over the last 18 months. For a lot of regions being hit by the foreclosure tsunami, the amounts they are getting from this program are not enough to make much of a dent, but here within the county and given our much lower foreclosure stats, $7.5 million here could be a significant amount for the folks with troubled mortgages that are still potentially salvageable.

PA's allocation and data is here. Compare that to Ohio's. Allegheny County shows a metric of foreclosure risk of 2.9%, a rate that is below every region calculated for Ohio. Cleveland is at 12.7%, Youngstown is at 14.7%. Detroit, Michigan: 16%.

With all data like that, you have to think about what the lowest number could be. I am sure 0% is a goal, but even in the best of times there are some normal number of foreclosures going on. What a good number for that steady state basement number is I do not know, but if its 1-2% then you want to compare how much we are above that baseline to how much other regions are above it for a more meaningful comparison of how the national foreclosure crisis is impacting different regions.


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