S. Florida foreclosure rate rises

Jul 11, 2008

Monica Hatcher

The Miami Herald

Foreclosures flooded South Florida's ailing housing market in June, as the mortgage crisis, exacerbated by tougher economic times, continued to claim overextended borrowers in the region.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate voted Thursday to advance a mortgage rescue to help hundreds of thousands of stressed homeowners, even as the bill faced fresh obstacles in the House.

By a vote of 84-12, the Senate cleared away the last procedural hurdle hindering the measure, putting the election-year aid package on track for approval by week's end.

In Broward County, 6,292 homes went into foreclosure or were confiscated by lenders last month, up 68 percent over June of last year and representing one of every 127 homes, according to foreclosure data firm RealtyTrac.

The county ranked third in the state in the number of foreclosures, which rose 41 percent from May.

In Miami-Dade, the rise was less dramatic, signaling a possible tapering off in problem loans.

Foreclosures were up 4 percent over the same period a year ago, and 9 percent over the month of May. They represented one of every 180 homes. The county ranked seventh statewide with 5,289 homes.

RealtyTrac data includes lis pendens filings by lenders, also called pre-foreclosures, homes scheduled for auction and properties taken back by banks.

Suggesting a possible tapering off of problem loans, foreclosures in both counties had fallen by 17 percent over the previous month, RealtyTrac reported last month.

However, lawyers who file foreclosure actions on behalf of lenders said May numbers were likely an aberration, since their offices were being flooded with new cases.

Worsening economic conditions may begin to cause more struggling borrowers into default, they said.

The state as a whole saw the number of foreclosures surge 92 percent in June over a year ago.

In Washington, the homeowner rescue measure is far from complete, with House leaders planning to rewrite key portions and the White House still threatening a veto.

The centerpiece of the plan would let the Federal Housing Administration back up to $300 billion in new loans to provide struggling homeowners with more affordable, fixed-rate mortgages.

It allows lenders who agree to take a substantial loss on the mortgages to reclaim at least some money and avoid a foreclosure.

The measure includes a long-sought modernization of the FHA and would create a new regulator and tighter controls on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage giants.

It also would provide $14.5 billion in housing tax breaks, including a credit of up to $8,000 for first-time buyers.

Congressional Democrats are divided over small but important elements of the plan, including limits on loans the FHA may insure and Fannie and Freddie may buy.

The Senate measure sets them at $625,000, while House leaders -- including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. -- want the cap as high as $730,000.

This story was compiled by Herald business writer Monica Hatcher with material from the Associated Press.

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