Foreclosures on pace to eclipse high ’08 levels

Fueled by persistently high unemployment rates, completed foreclosures surged 56.7 percent over the first half of the year, placing foreclosures on pace to surpass their recent high in 2008, according to figures released Tuesday morning.

In June, 1,313 foreclosure deeds were executed and completed foreclosures this year totaled 7,431 and were up in every county except Nantucket, according to the Warren Group. In 2008, 12,430 foreclosures were completed in Massachusetts, including 6,707 during the first six months of 2008.

“Foreclosures which were initiated a year ago are now being completed, and the figures are staggering,” Warren Group CEO Timothy Warren said in a statement. “We are on pace to exceed the peak foreclosure level seen in 2008 when more than 12,000 homeowners statewide lost their homes to foreclosure.”

Foreclosure deeds during the first half of 2010 were up by more than 60 percent in several counties, including Barnstable (74 percent), Berkshire (62 percent), Bristol (65 percent), Franklin (168 percent), Hampden (70 percent), Hampshire (107 percent), Plymouth (62 percent) and Worcester (84 percent).
Aaron Gornstein, executive director of Citizens Housing and Planning Association Inc. (CHAPA), said foreclosures in the pipeline lead him to believe the state will hit 15,000 foreclosures this year, a total that he said could eclipse foreclosure figures during 1990 and 1991, one of the state’s deepest recessions.

“We’re on pace for record foreclosures in 2010,” said Gornstein. “It’s an astounding number.”
Initiated foreclosures, the first step in the foreclosure process, dropped 3.4 percent in Massachusetts over the first half of the year, compared to the first half of 2009.

“We have been averaging just over 2,200 foreclosure petitions a month this year compared to about 2,300 a month last year,” Warren said.

The Warren Group began collecting full-year foreclosure statistics in 2006, when 3,130 foreclosures were reported. That number rose to 7,653 in 2007, to 12,430 in 2008 and down to 9,269 in 2009.
Gornstein, of CHAPA, called on the House to take up legislation passed by the Senate that would help delay foreclosures by requiring an extra 60 days to work out loan modifications, protect tenants of foreclosed properties and criminalize willful acts of mortgage fraud.

Many tenants who are up to date on rent payments face displacement when their landlords face foreclosure, Gornstein said. “We see the tenants as just innocent victims here,” he said. “The crisis is far from over.”

While subprime lending and overextended borrowers were behind the wave of foreclosures two years ago, Gornstein said high unemployment, and high numbers of underemployed individuals, are driving the latest rounds of foreclosures, which he said can fuel crime, vandalism and neighborhood problems.
House leaders have delivered positive signals about the bill, Gornstein said, but the legislation is competing with sweeping gambling, economic development, crime and other bills, with formal sessions set to end July 31.

“Because there’s so many other things up there pending, it’s difficult to know” if the bill will advance, he said, adding, “We think there’s a lot of support for this.”

The bill has been pending in the House Ways and Means Committee since early May after clearing the Senate unanimously in late April.