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MN’s Elusive Economic Recovery: Foreclosures on the Rise Again

June 14, 2010

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Economic recovery continues to elude Minnesota's housing market. New data from the "2-by-4" report put out by the Minnesota Housing Partnership reveal the highest number of recorded foreclosures in six quarters. Jobs in residential construction continue to decline, and homelessness remains a problem, particularly among families with school-age children.

Chip Halbach, executive director of the Partnership, says there is a time factor at work.

"That lengthy level of recession - high unemployment, declining wages - is taking its toll in terms of increased homelessness, and also more and more families falling behind on their mortgage payments."

The newest wave of foreclosures is no longer connected to subprime mortgage products. Instead, Halbach says, individual foreclosures have more to do with unemployment or marked reductions in wages, and are spread over wider areas of the state.

On a brighter note, Halbach says, mortgage delinquencies declined slightly, reversing a steady increase since the foreclosure crisis began. But even with the decline, he says, eight percent of Minnesota mortgages are at least 60 days delinquent.

"That is a big slice of our population that is being impacted in a substantial way from this recession."

Homelessness in Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis and is the state's most populous, also fell two percent in the first quarter of 2010.

However, Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools reported more than 6,000 children as homeless and highly mobile this past school year, a six percent increase over the previous school year. The trauma of losing a home is difficult not only for children, but for school districts as well, says Halbach.

"You have the burden that it places on the teacher and classroom of integrating that child, in a very difficult situation, into the overall learning environment."

Halbach says the gap between what people are able to earn and the cost of decent housing contributed to the housing crisis. He adds that investment in affordable housing would not only help families address the gap, but would also provide employment opportunities.

"We have this huge skilled labor pool of people that could be put to work by restoring the housing that declined over the years due to disinvestment, and as well in certain locations where new housing is needed, so that communities have a range of housing options."

The "2-by-4" report is intended to help policymakers make informed decisions in their response to Minnesota's housing crisis.

That report is available online at www.mhponline.org

Sharon Rolenc/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MN