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Ohio Homeowners Look for Answers in Continued Housing Crisis

PHOTO: Residents protesting foreclosures. Photo credit: ESOP
PHOTO: Residents protesting foreclosures. Photo credit: ESOP
August 23, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The housing bubble may have burst several years ago, but many Ohio communities continue to suffer the effects of the foreclosure crisis. An estimated one-third of all homeowners in the state are "underwater" on their mortgage, meaning they owe more than their home is worth.

It's a story Paul Simmons, Bedford, knows all too well. He paid $130,000 for his home 10 years ago, and now houses on his street are selling for just $75,000. He has tried working with his lender to reduce his loan principal, but has been unsuccessful. He says he feels trapped.

"My home is a toxic asset because it's not worth what I'm paying for it. It's more advantageous to me to have the house foreclosed on and to file bankruptcy than to just throw away $40,000 or $50,000 and not be able to recoup that money."

To address the housing crisis, homeowners from across Ohio will meet with state and local officials at a town hall meeting tonight in Akron to discuss the current state of affairs and examine solutions that will help to rebuild the housing market. The meeting is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Akron-Summit County Public Library.

Mark Siefert is the executive director of ESOP, a HUD-certified foreclosure-prevention counseling agency with 10 offices throughout the state. He says this is a matter that is affecting all homeowners, as well as the overall economy of Ohio.

"The simple fact is, even if you are up-to-date on your mortgage and all is good for you, if the house next door to you goes vacant because the homeowner is in foreclosure or they choose to walk because it doesn't make financial sense to keep paying, that's going to hurt you."

Siefert says banks need to do more to help borrowers stay in their homes, including offering "shared-appreciation mortgages." That's when a lender advances the borrower a percentage off the value of the property in exchange for a higher appreciation when the property sells.

Ohio has the 11th-highest foreclosure rate in the nation.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH