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Campaign aims to prevent foreclosures in Durham

Posted June 26, 2008

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— Economists say falling consumer confidence, rising job layoffs and higher mortgage rates are standing in the way of a housing rebound. Sales nationally of existing homes rose slightly in May, but that was only the second increase in the past 10 months.

So far this year, home foreclosures are up 36 percent in Chatham County, up 15 percent in Johnston County, up more than 12 percent in Orange County and up 11 percent in Wake County.

Durham's foreclosure increase is only 4.6 percent over last year, however,  and there is even more help on the way for homeowners in financial trouble in the Bull City.

"It wasn't just buying a house for us. This is our foundation,” Mary Garrett said of her Durham home.

For her husband, Tony Garrett, the home gives him a sense of security.

"It is stability for my family,” he said.

However, that stability didn't last long.

“We never understood that the rate was going to just climb and climb and climb,” Tony Garrett said.

Their mortgage started at about $670 a month, but rose to $980.

"I think sometimes it's embarrassment that I couldn't meet the mark. I couldn't live up to my obligations,” Tony Garrett said.

The Garrett family sought help from counseling adviser Gleyndola Beasley.

"At least 30 to 40 percent of the persons who are in foreclosures could have avoided foreclosures,” said Beasley, who is with the Durham Regional Financial Center.

Durham leaders want to see more people like the Garrett family get the help they need. A campaign is under way to educate people about options before foreclosure, including counseling.

"When we come together to partner on important issues, great things happen,” Durham County Commissioners Chairwoman Ellen Reckhow said.

An early indications that people may be in trouble financially is if they get behind on their taxes. Knowing that, the Durham County Tax Administrator's Office plans to notify people in those situations of mortgage options so they can act quickly.

"I think that we can be a major referral mechanism into this program,” Reckhow said.

It will not only help save the Durham tax base, but will help people, like the Garrett family, keep their homes. With the help of a counseling adviser, they now have a mortgage interest rate of 5.5 percent.

“I'm just thankful. I really am. I'm just thankful,” Tony Garrett said.

Durham will host a foreclosure workshop July 19 at North Carolina Central University educational building. It runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with registration at 10 a.m. More information is available from the city at 560-4570.

Financial counselors and bank lenders will be there to help homeowners with mortgage problems.


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