County Ranks 11th in State Foreclosures

Hamilton Journal News - June 24, 2005

Hamilton Journal News

by Cathy Mong and Shaheen Samavati Cox News Service

With 1,952 foreclosure filings in 2004, Butler County ranked 11th among the 88 counties in the state in filings per capita. That equates to one foreclosure filing for every 177.5 people in the county.

From 2003 to last year, the number of foreclosure filings in Butler County increased five percent. For the decade between 1994 and 2004, the number of county filings grew more than 300 percent.

Neighboring Warren County ranked 46 in per capita foreclosure filings last year with a reported 778 filings, or a 243.3 per capita rate. Filings there were up 8 percent since 2003 and 468 percent since 1994.

The two counties were among 50 in the state that saw filing increases compared to 2003.

Butler County was fifth in per capita filing rates among Ohio s top 10 most populated counties.

For the second year in a row, Montgomery County leads the state in the number of foreclosures per person.

According to Policy Matters Ohio, a Cleveland-based research organization, 4,002 foreclosures were filed in 2004 among the county s 550,063 residents that’s one filing per 137.4 people.

Cuyahoga County was second, with one filing per 138.6 people. The county with the lowest rate is Athens in southeast Ohio, with one filing per 526.6 people.

The report notes the number of foreclosures has risen dramatically over the last decade everywhere in Ohio, with 81 of the state s 88 counties reporting the number of filings at least doubling in that period. In 53 counties, the number of filings at least quadrupled.

Reasons cited for the continued high numbers of filings include the state’s weak economy, predatory lending and the growth of non-conforming loans, known as subprime lending.

Subprime loans carry higher rates, fees and other costs than prime, or A rated, loans. In addition, subprime loans have default and foreclosure rates five to 10 times higher
than those for A rated loans.

Filings in Montgomery County are at about the same level as last year, but overall have almost quadrupled since 1994.

It is starting to level off, but at a high level, said Zach Schiller, research director of Policy Matters Ohio.

There’s no question this is a problem that’s been going on in Montgomery County and is continuing, he said.

Denise Lee, spokeswoman for the Ohio Commerce Department, said the department is pleased to see a leveling off.

Certainly we have a lot of work to do, she said, noting that their mission is to focus on reducing foreclosures.

We do that by educating consumers. People can avoid problems if they go into a transaction cautiously, she said.

A year ago, Policy Matters Ohio found that there was a 57 percent increase in properties put up for sale by county sheriffs statewide from 2001 to 2003.

In that survey of sheriffs, a majority responded that predatory lending is the biggest single factor leading to foreclosures, Schiller said.

Predatory lending covers practices such as deceptive, high-cost loans with excessive interest rates, fees and penalties.

The county s dubious standing comes as no surprise to Montgomery County Sheriff Dave Vore, whose 2004 figures for orders to sell property showed 5,014 because of mortgage arrears, and 398 for nonpayment of property taxes. That’s up from 3,469 foreclosures because of nonpayment of mortgages and 47 for tax arrears in 2003.

Vore said foreclosed property sold at auction brings less than market value and can bring down a neighborhood’s property values.

Butler County Bureau reporter Chris Dumond contributed to this report.

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