Lucas, Wood rank high in foreclosures


Lucas and Wood counties have the dubious distinction of ranking among the highest in the state for foreclosures last year.

A report released yesterday shows Lucas County with 2,766 such actions on housing in 2004, or one for every 163 people, enough to rank sixth highest among Ohio's 88 counties.

Wood ranked lower by that measure, but its increase in foreclosures from the year before was 30 percent, or the third greatest increase among the state's counties.

Statewide, there were 59,007 new foreclosure filings last year, up 3.4 percent from the year before, said Policy Matters Ohio, a Cleveland non-profit research group. That's one for every 194 people.

"The growth has leveled off," said Zach Schiller, research director for Policy Matters. "We're not seeing the kind of disastrous increases that we saw in the 1990s and the early part of this decade."

But, he said, the number of foreclosures filed last year "is still bad news. We have one foreclosure for slightly more than every 100 people in the state of Ohio.

"Year after year, you can see the devastation in neighborhoods."

Foreclosure occurs when a homeowner fails to make payments on his or her mortgage and the lender seeks to seize the property to recover its money. It typically isn't used until the delinquency is months old.

Filings increase last year, Mr. Mr. Schiller said, because of the state's continuing weak economy, predatory lending, and the growth of sub-prime lending.

Another key indicator may be bankruptcy filings, which have soared in northwest Ohio the past few years.

The increase in foreclosures exceeded the state average last year for six area counties: Hancock, Henry, Lucas, Sandusky, Van Wert, and Wood. However, number of filings dropped in 10 other northwest Ohio counties.

The Policy Matters study examined the filings only by Ohio county, looking at figures from 1994, 2003, and 2004, as well as calculating the population per filing last year.

It collects information from court records.

For the past decade, the growth in filings placed five northwest Ohio counties among the top 10 in the state.

Williams ranked No. 1 foreclosures climbing more than 1,600 percent, from 8 to 139. Its rate last year, however, dropped 9 percent from the previous year. No. 2 was Fulton County, up 978 percent to 97, but its filings dropped 28 percent last year from the year before.

Others area counties among the tops in growth for the decade were Seneca, No. 4, up 838 percent; Van Wert, No. 6, up 672 percent; and Paulding, No. 10, up 593 percent.

Lucas County had nearly a 200 percent increase since 1994, ranking it No. 69 among 88 counties. Wood's was up 273 percent, placing it No. 57.

For growth in new filings last year from 2003, only Wood and Henry ranked high. Henry County, home to Napoleon, was fifth highest because of a 27 percent increase, with 100 new cases last year.

Because Henry is a relatively small county, one year's growth should be kept in perspective, said Mr. Schiller, of Policy Matters.

Statewide, filings have more than tripled in a decade. In 53 of 88 counties, the number of foreclosures has at least quadrupled in the 10 years, and 50 of the 88 had a jump in filings last year from the year before.

Ohio's 10 largest counties, including Lucas, have just over half of the state's population but account for nearly two thirds of the foreclosures.