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Fair Aims to Reduce Foreclosures

In March, banks took some form of action against 3,300 hundred properties in North Carolina. The number is below the average, but up about 2 percent from a year ago.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — With thousands of homeowners in the state in the midst of foreclosure, a fair is being held at North Carolina State University to help people address predatory lending.

The “Save Our Homes Fair,” held by ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), aims to help people avoid foreclosure. The event will be from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday. It is free and open to the public.

In March, banks took some form of action against 3,300 hundred properties in North Carolina. The number is below the average, but up about 2 percent from a year ago.

“Foreclosures are affecting everyone,” said state Deputy Commissioner of Banks Mark Pearce. He stressed that some foreclosures can be prevented.

“I knew I could afford the house, but had the terms been spelled out clearly, I would not have taken the loan. I probably would’ve gone a different route,” said Christopher Benjamin, who is facing foreclosure.

Benjamin said a lender told him the interest rate might go up, but also could go down based on the economy. So Benjamin signed the papers.

Benjamin’s rate soon went from 6 percent to 12 percent.

“If you reach out there, there are options most of the time for people,” Pearce said.

Benjamin said banks are working with him to modify his loan. He said he will do everything in his power to keep his home.

"Be aware. Be very aware. You got to do the resarch and understand the terms of the loan," Benjamin advises others.

Foreclosures also affect the neighbors. Some studies show that for every home foreclosed, property values in the neighborhood go down 1 percent.

Home foreclosures across the Tar Heel state fell 18.6 percent in March from February totals, according to statistics released Tuesday morning by mortgage information firm RealtyTrac.

The year-over-year increase in bank repossessions was even more dramatic in some states: 619 percent in Arizona; 597 percent in New York; 557 percent in California; and 464 percent in Florida.

Sen. Janet Cowell (D-Wake County) said the problem is something “we all need to work on.

"We'll continue to be vigilant as we go into the short session to see if there's additional state legislation needed (on preventing foreclosures)," Cowell said.

Cowell says the state Legislature has allocated an extra $300,000 this year to fund credit counseling services across the state to help families who are facing foreclosure or new to the home-buying process.

The NC Office of the Commissioner of Banks predicts a 10 to 20 percent increase of foreclosures across the state in 2008. They attribute the change to an increased number of subprime loans facing "payment shock;" slowing growth of home prices coupled with high leverage ratios; and spillover from slowing economic conditions.

Durham Regional Community Development Group is also holding a foreclosure awarenesss event on Saturday. The 9:30 a.m. event, at the Hayti Heritage Center on Fayetteville Street, will focus on neighborhoods in Durham with a high rate of foreclosure.


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