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Published: Friday, 11/23/2007

Housing crisis meeting to be held in Detroit


DETROIT - This city at the heart of an area that is among the nation's hardest hit by rising foreclosures will host a meeting of mayors from across the country next week to address the nation's housing crisis.

The National Forum on Homeownership Preservation and Foreclosures, organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, will include discussions about the state of the mortgage industry, ways homeowners can avoid foreclosure, and strategies to keep foreclosed properties from dragging down the quality of life in neighborhoods. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman is among the mayors who will be attending.

"We're not talking about legislation," said Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who is hosting the one-day forum Tuesday. "We're talking about finding a local solution to a national problem, and we'll start with the conversation here."

The goal is to create policy recommendations to present at a Conference of Mayors meeting in January, Mr. Kilpatrick said.

Next week's gathering is closed to the media, but the mayors plan to release a report on the economic ripple effect of foreclosures on U.S. metropolitan areas, with a focus on cities in Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio, which have some of the nation's highest foreclosure rates.

Ohio has the fifth-highest foreclosure rate in the third quarter - one filing per 107 households - in the country during the third quarter, according to RealtyTrac Inc.

The 46,818 filings on 35,242 properties during the quarter were a 28 percent increase from the second quarter and a 137 percent increase from the third quarter of 2006, according to RealtyTrac.

A separate RealtyTrac report showed Ohio had six metropolitan areas in the top 30 in the country in foreclosures rates during the third quarter.

Mr. Coleman and Mayor Jerry Abramson from Louisville, Ky., are scheduled to speak about ways to keep foreclosures from hurting neighborhoods.

The Center for Responsible Lending, a Durham, N.C.-based consumer advocate, is among the groups invited to participate in the forum. Executive Vice President Deborah Goldstein said cities can't afford to wait for action in Washington or at the state level to address the problem.

The housing market slump has made it harder for financially strapped homebuyers to sell their homes and avoid missing payments or losing their homes in foreclosure. Increasingly, many borrowers who took out adjustable-rate mortgages and other loans with monthly payments that increase after an initial period also are finding they can't afford their payments.

A recently released study by RealtyTrac found homeowners across the United States are increasingly having trouble making their mortgage payments on time, with borrowers in metro areas of California, Florida, and other once-booming housing markets accounting for the biggest spikes in filings.

The analysis of foreclosure activity in the nation's largest 100 metropolitan areas during the three months ended Sept. 30 found Stockton, Calif., had the highest rate, with one foreclosure filing for every 31 households. The Detroit area was second, with one foreclosure filing for every 33 households.

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