Local News

Thousands seek help from N.C. foreclosure program

Posted January 15, 2009 6:21 p.m. EST
Updated September 15, 2009 1:55 p.m. EDT

— Thousands of North Carolina homeowners have taken advantage of a new state program designed to head off home foreclosures.

Under the law, lenders must provide homeowners and the state banking commissioner 45 days' notice before filing a foreclosure action. The law also allows the banking commissioner to extend any foreclosure-filing notice period by 30 days.

The state uses that window to negotiate with the homeowner and mortgage holder on modifying loan interest rates and payments.

Since the law took effect two months ago, foreclosures fell in North Carolina in both November and December. Foreclosures were up 16 percent statewide in 2008, compared with an 81 percent jump nationwide.

North Carolina now ranks 27th among states in the number of foreclosures. The Triangle region ranks 71st among metro areas around the country.

"We've had over 2,000 homeowners across the state who were on the doorstep of foreclosure to call us for assistance," said Mark Pearce, North Carolina deputy commissioner of banks.

Pearce said it's too early to evaluate the program's success, but he said homeowners need to ask for help for it to work.

"A lot of times, homeowners weren't taking action. They would stick their heads in the sand," he said.

Charles "Red" Hughes, owner of Red's Beach Music club in Raleigh, found himself sinking in red ink over his home mortgage. He said he turned to ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, for guidance on refinancing and other information so he could keep his home.

"I think everybody goes through some tough times in their life," Hughes said. "When they guided me through it, there was not a possibility of foreclosure."

ACORN protesters gathered at the Wake County Courthouse on Thursday to protest at a foreclosure auction. They called for a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures to give lenders and struggling homeowners more time to find a fix.

"There are a lot of families that are hurting, and I'm just concerned about the families," one protester said.

Hughes was more direct, telling other owners to take action. "Don't let them take your home," he said.