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Staggering Increase in Regional Foreclosures Termed ‘Sobering’

The number of foreclosure filings in the south central region of Connecticut rose from 481 in the first quarter of 2011 to 851 in the first quarter of 2012, including 16 in North Branford, for an increase of 75 percent.

The number of foreclosures in the south central Connecticut region jumped dramatically from 2011 to 2012, according to a presentation on June 27 at a meeting of the South Central Connecticut Regional Council of Governments (SCRCOG) on Washington Avenue in North Haven.

The number of foreclosure filings in the south central region of Connecticut rose from 481 in the first quarter of 2011 to 851 in the first quarter of 2012 for an increase of 75 percent, said Carla Weil, executive director of a loan fund that serves as administrative partner of The Real Options, Overcoming Foreclosures (ROOF).

This outpaced the statewide increase of 38 percent.

According to the ROOF Project's website, North Branford accounted for 16 of the 851 foreclosure filings in the south central region, which is up from nine in the first quarter of 2011.

The 2012 numbers for North Branford include five in January, five in February and six in March. In 2011, there were 40 total foreclosure filings, including the nine in the first quarter, along with 15 in the second, 10 in the third and six in the fourth. 

At the regional council meeting, First Selectman Fillmore McPherson of Madison termed the numbers “sobering.”

Weil, whose loan fund is officially the Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund, termed the data “heartbreaking.”

Coming so long after the housing crisis began, the increase, she said, was in part the result of the judicial system by which the Connecticut foreclosure process operates, and also of the negotiations that concluded earlier this year between the federal and 49 state governments and five major U.S. banks over alleged foreclosure abuses. 

Of the $25 billion sum the settlement produced, Connecticut is expected to receive more than $190 million, Weil said.

For people who have already lost their homes through explicit abusive practices, Weil said the settlement provides up to $2,000 for those who apply before Sept. 30.

Weil presented foreclosure filings in the 15 municipalities that comprise SCROCG. In Hamden, the foreclosure filings jumped from 33 to 91. In Milford, foreclosure filings went from 19 to 70. In North Haven, the number increased from 10 to 17, and in Bethany—the sole SCROCG member that saw a decrease—the filings dropped from 6 to 4.

ROOF efforts, which the council embraced regionally last September, has had considerable success in preventing foreclosures through its outreach and mediation efforts, Weil said. 

She noted that only 47 percent of persons who are eligible for the state’s mediation efforts participated in the state mediation process for the last year for which data is available.  Of those, however, 63 percent were able to stay in their homes.

“Every single homeowner who is in foreclosure has the option of going through a mediation program that involves a third party mediator from the state,” Weil said. “The best thing is to have a mediator and a counselor.

"The goal with ROOT all along is to get people to take advantage of the free resources that are out there,” she said. 

Also at the regional council meeting on Wednesday, Mayor Ben Blake of Milford noted the difficulty he and his staff have had in reaching attorneys from the plaintiffs’ law firms. “Don’t they have a professional responsibility to get back to you?” the mayor asked.

James Zeoli, first selectman of Orange, noted that, by law, banks must register foreclosed properties with the Town Clerk, but that he has found that this is simply not always the case in Orange.

The decision by the council, which is charged with coordinating land use and transportation planning, to extend ROOF to the 15 municipalities under SCROCG’s jurisdiction last September came with an allocation of $25,000 for this fiscal year.

Volunteer representatives from the municipalities, which extend from Milford in the southwest to Madison on the east to Meriden on the north, participate in a Regional Housing Committee to oversee the ROOT’s regional foreclosure prevention efforts.

Since the council’s decision to take action, ROOF has conducted foreclosure clinics on a monthly basis in subregions within southcentral Connecticut in addition to outreach efforts such as sending letters about counseling and mediation resources directly to homeowners just entering foreclosure and training town staffs on available foreclosure resources, among the organization's other activities.

Through the program, HUD-certified counselors also work with homeowners at risk of foreclosure.

For additional information on the foreclosure prevention program, residents can access theroofproject.org.

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