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Group Rallies for Temporary Freeze on Home Foreclosures

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Published on: Friday, February 21, 2014

Ashley S. Westerman, Special to The Sentinel

While much of the rest of the country is enjoying a decrease in the rate of home foreclosures, Maryland is experiencing the opposite. This has prompted civic leaders and homeowners across Maryland to request the General Assembly to pass emergency legislation that will temporarily freeze all foreclosures for at least six months.

Carmen Johnson, Housing Chair for the Maryland Conference of the NAACP, is spearheading the effort. She and other supporters of the foreclosure moratorium will rally in Annapolis at the State House on Monday, Feb. 24, from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“We sent a letter to the governor. We sat down with our Attorney General several times. We contacted different Congressmen, we’ve done all the things we’re supposed to do,” said Johnson. “But this is an emergency.”

Two bills have been filed: one in the Senate, the other in the House. Senate Bill 755 is sponsored by Sen. Anthony Muse, while House Bill 1322 is sponsored by Rep. Aisha Braveboy, both Democrats from Prince George’s County.

“We want foreclosures to be closed and we want a third-party verifying to go through all the cases in the pipeline, case by case,” said Johnson.

According to RealtyTrac, the overall rate of foreclosures in the U.S. fell 29.9 percent from 2012 to 2013. However, a year-end report from the State Department of Housing and Community Development show foreclosures were up 117.1 percent in 2013 from the year before which is the second-highest growth in total foreclosure rates in the country, only behind Maine.

The report, which uses RealtyTrac statistics, also shows foreclosures increased in all Maryland counties in 2013. The three highest increases were in Allegany County at 326 percent; Worcester County at 267.3 percent; and Somerset County at 259.1 percent. Prince George’s County actually saw the lowest foreclosure rate at an increase of only 47.8 percent.

By the end of 2013, Maryland’s foreclosure rate was the fourth highest in the nation. In mid-February RealtyTrac then released a report that said foreclosure activity increased again in January, helping the state move to No. 3.

Johnson said while many mortgages are going into foreclosure because banks discriminated against Blacks and Hispanics, the crisis has moved beyond race.

“It was really just overall bank fraud,” said Johnson. “We’re getting more and more and more White American homeowners coming to the NAACP for help because they are in the same situation…so it’s really an American problem.”

State Housing officials say the increased growth in foreclosure activity can be attributed to a bounce-back in the housing market as well as a clearing of backlog from the 2008 financial crisis.

Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Raymond Skinner told the Baltimore Sun that the state expects foreclosure activity to slow down in the months to come, and pointed out the 10 percent drop in activity in January compared to December.

In a statement to the Sun, Skinner said, “We expect the annual growth rate of property foreclosures will continue to moderate over the coming months as lenders continue to deplete their inventory of seriously delinquent loans.”

Anyone who wishes to attend the rally can go to the Maryland State House in Annapolis on Feb. 24 starting at 4:30 p.m., and request that an emergency bill for a foreclosure moratorium for the State of Maryland for at least six months is passed into legislation.

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