City's foreclosure busters consider new strategies

The city's Foreclosure Intervention Team is taking the neighborhood-saving techniques it honed on Hendry Street to new areas in Dorchester and Roxbury, and brainstorming new ones as they go along.

On the drawing board for a new "hot spot" of foreclosed properties around Quincy and Dacia streets in Dot and a second one around Langdon and Clarence streets near St. Patrick's Church in Roxbury - is a streamlined process for choosing contractors to rehabilitate them, said Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) director Evelyn Friedman last week. Full details have not been hammered out yet, but the idea is that the city would qualify contractors beforehand to rehabilitate the properties the city acquires, instead of letting them bid on individual properties as was done on Hendry Street with four properties acquired there.

The condo-renovator for 19-21 Hendry Street and three other buildings has not been chosen yet, and the buildings are still sitting empty after being acquired months ago.

Another strategy on tap will take advantage of a $20 million privately-funded stabilization fund put together by Gov. Deval Patrick's administration. The fund will be used to give loans to those who want to renovate and re-sell foreclosed homes.

"One of the issues the banks have had is they're afraid there wouldn't be a buyer so they don't want to give you a construction loan," said Friedman.

The fund is due to come on line in the next month or two.

Friedman and her DND team are also pushing banks in the area to consider giving loans that would allow new homeowners to rehab properties themselves.

"You'd buy a property for $100,000 and get another $50,000 for rehab," she said. "Banks don't like to do that because they're not used to monitoring construction."

There is also an existing Federal Housing Administration loan program called the 203(k) Rehab Program that could, with falling housing prices and a bump on the program's mortgage ceiling, become viable in urban Boston again, she said.

As of Tuesday, there were 905 foreclosures recorded on Suffolk Deeds so far this year, but according to DND, close to a third are being acquired, which is an increase over what the city saw last year.

"Just anecdotally we know some are being bought by speculators," said Friedman. "But we don't know how many."