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Avoid Foreclosures To Avoid Blight

May 18 2012 | no comments

The 800 block of Boston Boulevard is a friendly place.  Neighbors know each other and are proud of their large historic homes.  But like so many other blocks in Detroit, the street is dotted with empty houses — most the result of foreclosures.  For the neighbors who remain, the houses are sad reminders.

Vanessa Johnson told us she misses the children who used to live in one of the empty houses.  She says the family members were very nice people.  The family lost their home, and Boston Boulevard lost something too, “some neighbors, some people that I likes a lot and people who were good for the neighborhood,” according to Vanessa.


The street has gained new neighbors too.  Risa Haynes and her family bought the home next to Vanessa.  The home had been empty for a while.  It was vacant because of death, not foreclosure.  That was an important distinction for Risa, “I wouldn’t buy a foreclosed house because I’ve seen what they’ve done to the people and what they’ve done to the families.”

For the last 24 years, Risa and her family have lived on Berkshire on Detroit’s east side.  Their well-kept home is one of 22 on the block.  12 are vacant.  Other streets in the Morningside neighborhood have fared even worse.

Risa told us, “I’ve watched all of my friends lose their houses, I’ve watched them walk away from their houses.”

She said the troubles began when residency rules for city employees ended.  But that was just the start. “We watched people lose their houses from gambling, refinancing their houses and not knowing the proper procedure.”  She places most of the blame on banks and mortgage companies.  They told one of her neighbors, “Your house note has gone from $600 to $1600 and there wasn’t anything they could do, and instead they just walked away.”

There are other options.

There are counselors who can help homeowners who fall behind in their payments.  They say the foreclosure situation is the worst it has ever been.  Counselor Roberta Arrington thinks foreclosure destroys neighborhoods, “You have a lot of empty houses and they get vandalized, they go in and take the things out and then you have blight.”

Avis Holmes is Executive Director of the Detroit Non-Profit Housing Corporation.  Her agency is administering a new program for Detroit residents who are up to three months behind on their mortgage.  It’s called The Rescue Fund.  She says, “The city will allow us to pay three months of your mortgage to assist you in avoiding foreclosure.  We have to look closely because with the payment of the three months, you must be able to sustain your home.”

Holmes has learned that protecting a family’s home also protects a neighborhood, “It will be one less abandoned home so it will help stem the tide of destruction and I think that was the goal.”

Back on Boston Boulevard, residents cut the grass and trim hedges at the empty houses.  They’re doing the same thing over on Berkshire. Risa is busy fixing up her new home, “We’ve decided to take our family and move into this neighborhood where it’s a little more sound.”

There’s one other reason.  Risa’s house notes have gone up $200 dollars a year for several years.  And she says the mortgage company has tacked on so many fees she can’t qualify for most programs.  So she’s leaving to avoid foreclosure.



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