By Maria-Jose Subiria
The Clayton County Housing Authority was recently presented with the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) Award of Merit, for its founding of the Clayton County Foreclosure Resource Center, according to Chris Wood, spokesman for the housing authority.
The authority won the award under the Program Innovation category of "Community Revitalization," said Wood. Wood added that the authority's winning was announced at NAHRO's 2010 Summer Conference, in Boston, Mass., in July, and the award was officially presented to the authority on Aug.18.
"This division of NAHRO awards includes all programs that have a positive economic impact on a neighborhood or city, which might include facilitating balanced growth, economic development, job creation, creative financing, public/private partnerships, mixed-use developments, or neighborhood preservation," said Wood, in a written statement.
According to Wood, from May 2009, to Dec. 2009, the housing authority reached 4,103 county homes that were recently advertised as foreclosures. Of those homes, there were 1,108 residencies that were vacant, 448 homes were occupied by an owner, and 459 homes had tenants, he said. Throughout the seven-month period, the CCFRC received 1,110 phone calls and 1,628 web site hits, said Wood.
"The bottom line is to keep homeowners in their Clayton County homes," he added about the purpose of CCFRC. The CCFRC began operations in November 2008, and it was created to address home foreclosure issues in the county by using prevention and intervention methods, Wood said.
He said homeowners in need of foreclosure assistance or education from the CCFRC, are able to obtain it pro bono. The prevention method, one of two CCFRC programs, is targeted to homeowners experiencing pre-foreclosure conditions, or owners who are beginning the foreclosure process, he said.
Wood said the prevention method provides homeowners with professional mortgage counseling services, and other education and training services.
According to the CCFRC web site -- www.ccfrc.com -- the intervention method offers homeowners secondary mortgages, allowing them to catch up on their delinquent payments, or negative equity. The intervention approach has other programs, including the purchasing of foreclosed homes at a discount to rehabilitate, or redevelop them, for potential resale, according to the web site.
Wood said the housing authority has already purchased two homes; one has been sold and the other is still on the market.
James Searcy, chairman of the Clayton County Housing Authority, said he is also the chairman of CCFRC's foreclosure prevention subcommittee. "It [the award] is something that we are very proud of at the housing authority, but it also speaks very well of the county as a whole," said Searcy, during a phone interview.
He said the CCFRC was a necessity for the county. Searcy explained that the foreclosure problem in the county became noticeable toward the end of 2007, when homeowners' subprime loans began to activate. He said the activation of those loans doubled the mortgage payment amounts of many homeowners.
Most individuals who had the subprime loan told the CCFRC that when they signed their contracts, they did not completely comprehend the loan, according to Searcy.
The foreclosure problem in the county suffered a "double whammy," as more homes foreclosed, due to an increase in unemployment, added Searcy. "Unemployment became a national problem, but it was extra devastating in Clayton County."