Report: Ohio foreclosures drop, home insecurity continues

While foreclosure filings are down in Ohio, a new report from Policy Matters Ohio finds they remain higher than before the rise in predatory lending made the state a leader in foreclosures.

COLUMBUS – A new report finds foreclosures in Ohio fell to their lowest level last year since 2001, but the state is still feeling the effects of the housing bubble burst.

According to data compiled by the research institute Policy Matters Ohio, foreclosures in 2014 dropped 18 percent from 2013.

However, Zach Schiller, the group’s research director, says the state is not out of the woods yet.

“These foreclosure filings remain at levels that were far higher than what was normal back in the 1990s,” he points out. “So despite the fact that we’ve seen a major reduction from the crisis levels of five or six years ago, this remains a major issue for Ohio’s families.”

The report found Ohio foreclosure filings fell to nearly 44,000 last year compared to just over 51,000 in 2013.

Richland County had the highest rate, replacing Cuyahoga County, which had the highest rate for nine years.

Schiller says with funding from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Hardest Hit Fund, the Save the Dream program has helped thousands of Ohioans stay in their homes.

But he says the money is almost gone and the program is no longer accepting new applicants.

“We still do have agencies and nonprofits that are providing foreclosure counseling, usually though without financial relief,” he states. “They don’t have the ability to help pay something on the mortgage the way that Save the Dream did. “

But Schiller says more counties are using an alternative process to deal with the number of blighted and abandoned homes left sitting by the foreclosure crisis.

“We’re seeing an increasing use of these expedited foreclosures and that’s a positive in a sense that at least it makes it more likely that these properties will be used or disposed of more quickly than if they just sit around vacant and unoccupied,” he says.

Some $66 million from the Hardest Hit Fund has been pledged to reimburse county land banks in Ohio for buying and removing blighted and vacant homes.

And the state distributed $75 million dollars from a 2012 national mortgage settlement for demolition of abandoned homes.