Saturday, May 24, 2008

Foreclosure by the Numbers

It isn't readily available in the near-coastal areas of Gulf Breeze and Pensacola Beach but the Santa Rosa Press-Gazette, published in the north-county town of Milton, can be found on-line. Something good has happened to this small town newspaper in the past couple of years.

With limited resources, The Press-Gazette has been doing a bang-up job covering local and even national news from a local community perspective. The latest example: Jeni Senter's dispatch on the impact felt by local renters caught up in the snowballing housing crisis. (Be generous and forgive the awkwardly worded headline, which might have been intended to read "Renters Feel the Squeeze of Foreclosure Pinch.")

The lede smartly encapsulates the story: "Renters across Florida are being evicted because their landlords aren’t paying the mortgage." The essence is, a lot of apartment dwellers and house tenants are being evicted even though they pay the rent on time. The reason is their landlords are defaulting on their own mortgages.
Many unscrupulous landlords will continue to collect their tenant’s rent payments, even though they know eviction is inevitable and just a few weeks to months away.

"For those tenants, the shock of being forcibly evicted combined with the apparent loss of their security deposit and last month’s rent money, causes anger, embarrassment and rudely disrupts their lives," says [lawyer Karl] Klein.

Senter also does foreclosure by the numbers. And those numbers are shocking:
In Santa Rosa County alone there are currently over 35 apartments in foreclosure. This does not include the single residence homes being foreclosed. Although many of these single family homes are lived in by the owners, others are rented to tenants.

The foreclosures of all these homes and apartments are resulting in a new class of homeless families. And now more than ever, these homeless families don’t have the funds required to put down deposits and other associated costs with moving into a new home.
* * *
According to Family Promise of Santa Rosa County, in 2005, 39% of renters in Santa Rosa County were unable to afford a two-bedroom unit at fair market rent. Families in the county had to work 72 hours per week at minimum wage to afford a two-bedroom rental unit.

And, there is this: A local homeless advocacy group, Family Promise of Santa Rosa County "estimates the daily homeless count in Santa Rosa County is 7,363 people."

That is huge for a county of Santa Rosa's size; nearly twice the total part-time and year-round residential population of Pensacola Beach; or, for another comparison, somewhere around 65% of the total population of Gulf Breeze.

Reporter Senter also discovered that foreclosure lawsuits in Santa Rosa during the first five months of this year are being filed at a pace double that of last year and more than three times that of the year before:
According to the Santa Rosa County Clerk of Court, in 2005 there were 201 foreclosures in the county. In 2006, this number dropped to 196 foreclosures. However, this trend took a sharp climb because in 2007, the Clerk’s office reports 370 foreclosures in Santa Rosa County. The economic situation throughout the country appears to be in crisis and Santa Rosa County is following closely. As of Wednesday, The Clerk of Court has over 301 foreclosures listed for the county, not even six months into the year 2008.
As we mentioned a while ago, ["The Clerk's Tale"] foreclosure filings in neighboring Escambia County reportedly have increased by similar percentages. The raw numbers of renter evictions and homelessness in the Pensacola area must be tripling here, too.

It's common wisdom that, nationwide, things are only going to get worse. Experts, as Bloomberg News reports, foresee no improvement until 2010 at the earliest.

We've spoken with local real estate brokers who've been quoted publicly as saying the local housing market is improving. But privately, they tell us a recovery in the Pensacola area is likely to lag two or three years behind any national upswing.

Maybe so, maybe not. One useful indicator could be had if newspapers tracked the number of foreclosure filings by the week or month. Put 'em next to the weather forecast.

Unless, of course, the press for some reason wants to shield the public from news that actually affects their lives.

1 comment:

Jeni Senter said...

You are correct, the headline was a misprint. It didn't go to press this way, but the online versions did have the error. Thank you for reading Santa Rosa's Press Gazette. I am proud to be a part of Santa Rosa County's only local newspaper for over one hundred years. I want to continue to put a personal and local slant on national issues.

Jeni Senter