All four cities in the Sun Press coverage area are reporting declines in the number of residential foreclosure filings.
Beachwood and University Heights are experiencing steady reductions in the number of homes going into foreclosure. Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights have seen foreclosure rates rise in the last few years, but officials in both cities also are reporting fewer filings in 2012.
All but Shaker Heights provided information they received from the Northeast Ohio Community and Neighborhood Data for Organizing, a free and publicly accessible social and economic data system of Case Western Reserve University’s Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development.
Shaker officials said information they receive from the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court is more accurate.
On pace for less than 400 filings
Through April, there have been 129 listed residential mortgage foreclosure filings in Cleveland Heights, putting the city on pace for the fewest filings since at least 2006.
Cleveland Heights had 481 residential mortgage foreclosure filings in 2006, according to NEO CANDO. This number jumped to 505 in 2007 and 519 in 2008. Filings dropped to 488 in 2009, with 495 in 2010 and 446 in 2011.
Mayor Ed Kelley said a high foreclosure rate affects the city in a number of ways. He said neighborhoods are faced with empty homes, the city and school district lose income and property tax revenue and the police department must monitor against break-ins, with copper plumbing a common item looted from vacant properties.
To help combat the foreclosure crisis, the city purchased 28 vacant homes for $1 through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program, rehabbed them and have sold all but one, Kelley said. The city also tears down 25-40 vacant homes per year, he said, and recently approved a practice that allows neighboring property owners to purchase these lots for $1.
Kelley takes heart in the fact the city is on track for 387 residential mortgage foreclosure filings in 2012. He is confident the tide has turned for the better.
“The economy’s getting a little better, he said.
Weekly monitoring of foreclosure rates
Shaker Heights has seen a slight increase in residential foreclosure filings since 2008, according to data collected by the city.
William Hanson, the city’s director of housing inspection, said the city tracks foreclosure filings through the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court website.
“We have someone checking that on a weekly basis,” he said. “We monitor properties in foreclosure very closely.”
The city’s data indicates there were 251 foreclosures filed in both 2008 and 2009, 266 in 2010 and 287 last year.
“The overall housing market is certainly a factor (contributing to the increase), and the economy has played a role,” Hanson said.
Through June 20, the city had tracked only 89 foreclosure filings this year, Hanson said. That’s down about 30 percent compared to a year ago, he said.
Hanson said there could be a variety of reasons for the decrease in filings.
“I think there is more emphasis on loan modification efforts, where lenders are willing to modify terms of a loan to make payments,” he said. “Also there’s the robo-signing scandal.”
The “robo-signing” scandal refers to mortgage serving companies signing foreclosure documents without reviewing them, assuming the paperwork to be correct.
“I’m sure that resulted in some delays in foreclosures being filed,” he said.
“Also we’re seeing, in some instances, bank walk-aways, where a lender makes a decision not to foreclose and basically walks away, not pursuing foreclosure action.”
According to NEO CANDO, Shaker Heights’ residential foreclosure filings have been up and down since 2008. The NEO CANDO site indicates the city had 254 filings in 2008, 224 in 2009, 240 in 2010 and 214 last year. Through April 30, there were 57 filings in the city this year.
Hanson said he could not speak to the data from NEO CANDO.
“We’ve found using the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas site is the way to get the most accurate information on foreclosures,” he said.
Hanson noted Shaker Heights City Council recently passed a foreclosure registration ordinance that will require a person or entity filing a foreclosure action to register with the city and pay a fee.
He said the city will still use the county common pleas website to track data. But this legislation, which went into effect June 1, will allow the city to get information directly from a lawyer after a foreclosure case is filed, he said.
Stable jobs equate to fewer foreclosures
University Heights has seen a steady decline in the number of foreclosure filings dating back to 2008.
In 2008, the city had 95 foreclosure filings, including 63 homes sold via sheriff deeds. Those numbers dropped to 88 and 57 respectively in 2009, 83 and 52 in 2010 and 79 and 23 last year.
Through April 30, the city had 38 foreclosure filings this year, with only seven of those homes sold via sheriff deeds.
Mayor Susan Infeld said she believes the city is fortunate to not have as many foreclosure filings as some surrounding cities.
“I think it means our residents have stable jobs,” she said. “We have a lot of people with medical jobs.”
Beachwood mirrors county in declining rates
There are 12 residential mortgage foreclosures in Beachwood as of April 30. This is the lowest amount of foreclosed homes the city has had in the past six years.
In 2006, Beachwood had 24 foreclosed homes and 39 in 2009 and 2010. The number dropped in 2011 to 27 foreclosed homes.
According to the NEO CANDO data, the county as a whole also has seen a gradual decline in the number of foreclosure filings since 2008.
Staff writers Brian Byrne and Brittney Edelman contributed to this story.
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