To help stop the surging tide of foreclosures some cities have decided to take matters into their own hands, or in the case of Trenton N.J., place it in God’s hands. These cities have put their creative energy to work and are seemingly willing to do whatever it takes to keep residents in their homes. A recent Associated Press article talked about several creative measures being taken by cities:
In Philadelphia, the court decided to make it mandatory for lenders and homeowners to get together to try to work a deal out before they would proceed with a Sheriff sale. In addition, the court assigned homeowners volunteer attorneys and housing counselors.
In Cleveland, the city decided to sue lenders for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages stemming from loans they deemed to be predatory. Minneapolis and Buffalo are undertaking similar lawsuits. The lenders, of course, say that these lawsuits have zero merit and that they are simply an act of desperation on behalf of the cities.
In Jacksonville, Fla., residents in distress can apply for interest free loans of $5,000 which will be forgiven if they remain in their homes for at least five years. Louisville, Ky., has a similar program but they require residents to remain in their homes for 10 years.
Los Angeles is staffing foreclosure counselors in neighborhood centers for jobs and city services in addition to working with neighborhood councils.
Perhaps the most creative and useful--or most desperate, depending on one’s beliefs--comes from Trenton, N.J. Trenton’s mayor, Douglas H. Palmer, has requested all preachers in the city to preach at least one sermon on foreclosure in June. In addition, he has asked churches to distribute to their congregations materials meant to help people facing foreclosure. Many people from the churches are even wearing T-shirts that say “Save Trenton Homes!” with numbers for a help hotline on the back.
The number of foreclosures continue to rise, and it doesn’t appear that it is about to stop any time soon. As time goes on I would expect to see continued acts such as these from desperate people. I certainly don’t blame the cities for trying--at the very least, it shows their residents that they care about them and are willing to put up a fight. However, in the end, most of these desperate measures will fail to help. Trying to keep someone in a home they can’t afford is futile. We will have to accept that the market needs to correct itself, and next time around we as homeowners need to ensure that we don’t get ourselves into homes and mortgages that are more than we can handle. This housing crisis is one big learning experience for Americans: Don’t spend money you don’t have, or in the case of lenders, don't lend money to people who can’t pay it back. I just hope the federal government doesn’t pass the big bail out deal that changes the lesson around to don’t be afraid to spend more money than you have, or be careless with your lending, because the government will bail you out if it comes to it.