GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio, April 4 (Reuters) – Half a decade
into the deepest U.S. housing crisis since the 1930s, many
Americans are hoping the crisis is finally nearing its end.
House sales are picking up across most of the country, the
plunge in prices is slowing and attempts by lenders to claim
back properties from struggling borrowers dropped by more than a
third in 2011, hitting a four-year low.
But a painful part two of the slump looks set to unfold:
Many more U.S. homeowners face the prospect of losing their
homes this year as banks pick up the pace of foreclosures.
“We are right back where we were two years ago. I would put
money on 2012 being a bigger year for foreclosures than 2010,”
said Mark Seifert, executive director of Empowering &
Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP), a counseling group with 10
offices in Ohio.
“Last year was an anomaly, and not in a good way,” he said.
In 2011, the “robo-signing” scandal, in which foreclosure
documents were signed without properly reviewing individual
cases, prompted banks to hold back on new foreclosures pending a
Five major banks eventually struck that settlement with 49
U.S. states in February. Signs are growing the pace of
foreclosures is picking up again, something housing experts
predict will again weigh on home prices before any sustained
recovery can occur.
Mortgage servicing provider Lender Processing Services
reported in early March that U.S. foreclosure starts jumped 28
percent in January.
More conclusive national data is not yet available. But
watchdog group, 4closurefraud.org which helped uncover the
“robo-signing” scandal, says it has turned up evidence of a
large rise in new foreclosures between March 1 and 24 by three
big banks in Palm Beach County in Florida, one of the states hit
hardest by the housing crash
Although foreclosure starts were 50 percent or more lower
than for the same period in 2010, those begun by Deutsche Bank
were up 47 percent from 2011. Those of Wells Fargo’s rose 68
percent and Bank of America’s, including BAC Home Loans
Servicing, jumped nearly seven-fold — 251 starts versus 37 in
the same period in 2011. Bank of America said it does not
comment on data provided by other sources. Wells Fargo and
Deutsche Bank did not comment.
Housing experts say localized warning signs of a new wave of
foreclosure are likely to be replicated across much of the
Online foreclosure marketplace RealtyTrac estimated that
while foreclosures dropped slightly nationwide in February from
January and from February 2011, they rose in 21 states and
jumped sharply in cities like Tampa (64 percent), Chicago (43
percent) and Miami (53 percent).
RealtyTrac CEO Brandon Moore said the “numbers point to a
gradually rising foreclosure tide as some of the barriers that
have been holding back foreclosures are removed.”
One big difference to the early years of the housing crisis,
which was dominated by Americans saddled with the most toxic
subprime products — with high interest rates where banks asked
for no money down or no proof of income — is that today it’s
mostly Americans with ordinary mortgages whose ability to meet
payment have been hit by the hard economic times.
“The subprime stuff is long gone,” said Michael Redman,
founder of 4closurefraud.org. “Now the folks being affected are
hardworking, everyday Americans struggling because of the
“HARD TO CATCH UP”
Until December 2010, Daniel Burns, 52, had spent his working
life in the trucking industry as a long-haul driver and manager.
When daily loads at the small family business where he worked
tailed off, he lost his job.
Unable to cover his mortgage, Burns received a grant from a
government fund using money repaid from the 2008 bank bailout.
That grant is due to expire in early 2013 and Burns is holding
out on hopeful comments from his former employer that he might
get his job back if the economy recovers.
“If things don’t pick up, I will be out on the street,” he
said, staring from his living room window at two abandoned
houses over the road in the middle-class Cleveland suburb of
Garfield Heights, the noise of traffic from a nearby Interstate
highway filling the street.
Underscoring the uncertainty of his situation, Burns’ cell
phone rings and a pre-recorded message announces that his
unemployment benefits are due to be cut off in April.
A bit further up the shore of Lake Erie, Cristal Fell, who
works night shifts entering data for a trucking company in
Toledo, has fallen behind on her mortgage a second time because
her ex-husband lost his job and her overtime was cut.
“Once you get behind it’s so hard to catch up,” she said.
Fell, a mother of four, hopes the economy will gather enough
speed to help her avoid any risk of losing her home. Her
ex-husband has found a new job and she is getting more overtime,
so she hopes she can catch up on her mortgage by the fall.
Burns and Fell are the new face of the U.S. housing crisis:
Middle class, suburban or rural with a conventional 30-year
fixed mortgage at a reasonable interest rate, but unemployed or
underemployed. Although the national unemployment rate has
fallen to 8.3 percent from its peak of 10 percent in October
2009, nearly 13 million Americans remain jobless, meaning many
are struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments.
Real estate company Zillow Inc says more than one in four
American homeowners were “under water” or owed more than their
homes were worth in the fourth quarter of 2011. The crisis has
wiped out some $7 trillion in U.S. household wealth.
“We’re seeing more people coming through who have good loans
with reasonable interest rates,” said Ed Jacob, executive
director of non-profit lender Neighborhood Housing Services of
Chicago Inc, which provides foreclosure counseling. “But in many
households only one person works now instead of two, or they had
their hours cut.”
“The answer to the housing crisis now is job creation.”
CRAWFORDSVILLE, Indiana (Reuters) – Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana is one of the Senate’s conservative titans, the courtly, silver-haired elder of the state’s Republican Party who has been unopposed in primary elections for 35 years.
So why is the Senate’s longest serving Republican now shaking hands outside factories and traipsing across Indiana fueled by McDonald’s milkshakes, his favorite indulgence?
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – Political money has poured into Wisconsin in recent months – not for the presidential or Senate races but for a state vote getting national billing as a battle for the interests of the middle class.
On one side are conservatives from across the country who back Republican Governor Scott Walker, a darling of the right since his 2011 crusade to rein in government spending by eliminating most collective bargaining rights for public employees. On the other are Democrats and union backers conducting a grassroots drive to collect more than a million signatures in a heated campaign to recall Walker.
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Their
encampments are largely gone, but the U.S. Occupy movement is
far from dead, with organizers focused on a next wave of
In Iowa, a major farming state, Occupy activists are
mobilizing with other groups against agricultural biotechnology
firm, Monsanto. In Oklahoma, Occupy plans to target retail giant
Walmart for protests. Groups in more than 50 cities are planning
a national protest day February 29, targeting numerous
By Nick Carey
(Reuters) – Hundreds of miles and a vast ideological divide separate Cecily Friday from Tim Dake. But what they share is a passionate dislike and distrust of the American political elite. I caught up with Friday on a bitterly cold, rainy October night in Nashville. That same night state troopers had arrested 29 members of Occupy Nashville for violating a new curfew designed to end the occupation of Legislative Plaza.
They were there, the occupiers said, to protest income inequality, bank bailouts, and corporate involvement in American politics. “I have been waiting and waiting for years for people to come out onto the streets,” said Friday, a former left-wing blogger, now a stay-at-home mom who has become a spokeswoman for the local Occupy movement. Slender, brown-haired, and efficient, Friday did not waste many words – she was needed elsewhere. “Now we’re doing something and we’re not going to stop.”
By Nick Carey
(Reuters) – Newt Gingrich mobilized the Tea Party vote to help him win the South Carolina Republican presidential primary but he may struggle to repeat that success as he moves into Florida and other states.
Supporters of the conservative Tea Party movement were crucial to Gingrich’s victory in Saturday’s primary to be the Republican nominee facing President Barack Obama in November’s election, exit poll data from South Carolina showed.
MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (Reuters) – Everybody was waiting for Jim DeMint. Mitt Romney had reason to hope the South Carolina senator would repeat his 2008 endorsement of his presidential bid.
DeMint is the hero of conservatives in South Carolina, so his backing might well have clinched the crucial state for Romney. Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul had just as much reason to hope DeMint might support them, and put him in the role of kingmaker in the Republican race for the White House.
CHICAGO (Reuters) – As Mitt Romney inches toward the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, many conservative activists are increasingly focused on a different political prize for 2012: the Senate.
Republicans, who currently have 47 of the 100 Senate seats, are seen as having a good shot of winning control of the upper chamber because they are defending far fewer seats in the November election.
MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (Reuters) – For insight into the conservative Tea Party movement’s battle plan in 2012, check out Joe Dugan’s Google spreadsheets.
Dugan, 66, a retired manufacturing executive and chairman of the Myrtle Beach Tea Party, is particularly proud of the scoring system he’s devised for South Carolina legislators. Every vote by a member of the state’s House or Senate is recorded, with points awarded for those that reflect the conservative position.
DETROIT (Reuters) – A Nigerian man readily admitted he was trying to bring down a U.S. airliner when he was arrested on Christmas Day 2009 with a bomb in his underwear, a U.S. prosecutor said on Tuesday in his opening statement at the man’s trial.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 24, showed little emotion on the first day of his trial, silently staring forward with his chin on his hands during most of the prosecution’s opening statement, which linked him to al Qaeda.