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Housing Authority has plan for foreclosures

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Housing Authority's Foreclosure Prevention Committee has come up with a plan to buy foreclosed homes and sell them back to the original owners.

The plan, which will be offered to the full board for approval next week, focuses on helping homeowners who are the victims of sub-prime mortgage fraud.

"We have to take some responsibility to reach out and help the people who are in need and are going through foreclosure," said James Searcy, a Realtor and the chair of the Housing Authority's foreclosure committee. "The situation, overall, it's devastating. It doesn't seem like there is any other help on the way, from any other source."

Clayton County reportedly leads the metro area in delinquent mortgages and foreclosed homes. Housing Authority officials believe that while some of the financial crises can be attributed to people's bad decisions, there are other situations with "good people, who just got bad mortgages," said Chris Wood, authority spokesman.

Carlo Musso, chairman of the authority board, said there was an urgent need to come up with a plan responding to the county's crisis, which is also part of a larger, national problem. He said the board believes homeownership is the "backbone of the community," and he wanted to have a plan in place to support and reinforce that backbone, by mid-summer.

"Keeping our employed, taxpaying citizens in their homes is in the best interest of everyone," Musso said. "The Housing Authority of Clayton County has resources set aside that we've been saving. If we're saving for a rainy day, well, it's pouring outside."

The committee looked at some other plans, including the possibility of making loans to people with delinquent mortgages, but decided, during a two-hour meeting on Wednesday, to recommend a purchasing-and-reselling plan.

The Housing Authority would, under the proposal, purchase the homes with predatory, rapidly escalating interest rates, and re-offer them to the original owners at a low, payable rate. The authority, as a non-profit with a lot of resources and solid investments, could get relatively low interest rates, in buying the houses.

"We are definitely focused on those homeowners who are in pre-foreclosure, or who have imminent foreclosure," Searcy said. "And the concept of this venture, and dealing with our own foreclosures in Clayton County, I thought was a very innovative and much-needed idea."

If the plan is approved next week, the board will bring in some expert help, Wood said, forming partnerships with Realtors, program administrators and credit counselors.

The authority will not be accepting applications until after the partnerships are formed, Wood said, even though the front phone started ringing with people interested in any sort of program as soon as the planning committee was formed.

"We're going to have to go and get that kind of expertise," Wood said. "But we're going to do all we can. We're going to start out small, and do a couple ,and start out slow -- and go from there."