In June, Rocky Mountain PBS launched a new initiative, “Facing the Mortgage Crisis,” in partnership with public radio stations across the state. RMPBS joined forces locally with KUNC-FM, community radio for Northern Colorado, and KUVO-FM, Denver’s jazz and public radio station, to connect the public with critical resources for handling mortgage questions and related issues.
RMPBS also partnered with the Colorado Foreclosure Hotline, the first statewide hotline in the United States, which was established as a consortium of government, private-sector and nonprofit organizations committed to referring homeowners in some state of delinquency or foreclosure to a toll-free phone number (1-877-601-HOPE) that connects them with local HUD- approved housing counseling agencies.
While there are indications that the worst of the recession is over and the housing market is on the rebound, with some believing Colorado is one of the first states showing signs of recovery, new figures offer a sobering reality check. Foreclosure filings in the state have, in fact, hit a record high, according to a report released Nov. 19 by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs – Division of Housing.
The report shows that new foreclosure filings topped 12,000, marking the fourth quarter in a row in which foreclosure filings have increased. However, foreclosure activity has varied by region over the last year, with Adams, Arapahoe and Denver counties experiencing a significant decline in the total numbers of completed foreclosures. Much of the new growth in foreclosure activity has been outside the Denver Metro area; foreclosure sales have increased significantly in counties outside the Front Range, including Mesa, Montrose, Chaffee, Park, La Plata, and Eagle Counties.
Despite statewide disparities, the outlook is not good: New foreclosure filings are on pace to exceed totals for both 2007 and 2008, and are likely to top 40,000 new filings for the first time. The good news is that completed foreclosures could come in lower than 2007 totals, when completed foreclosures peaked at 25,056, according to the Division of Housing’s 3rd Quarter 2009 Foreclosure Report.
This glimmer of hope was reflected in an October MLS report covering the Denver metro area and surrounding counties, released by Ron Woodcock, a realtor for ReMax Southeast and a member of both the Colorado Foreclosure Prevention Task Force and the Colorado Housing Counseling Coalition. Woodcock’s numbers showed significantly fewer homes on the market from October 2008-2009 – a sign that the market could finally be picking up. Woodcock’s figures also indicated that there are fewer homes for sale due to foreclosure, which could mean a potential increase in home values. Woodcock notes that while this uptick may be short-lived, the resale market appears to be headed in the right direction. And these regional stats coincide with news from the National Association of Realtors that as of December, home sales have risen nationally for nine months in a row.
Still many Coloradans continue to struggle. For the last four months, the Colorado Foreclosure Hotline has received more than 3,000 calls per month. And the RMPBS Facing the Mortgage Crisis online project has had over 3500 visitors since June, with a nearly 60 percent increase in visits between October and November.
The efforts of Rocky Mountain PBS, the Colorado Foreclosure Hotline and other organizations have been bolstered by new legislation and regulation at both the state and federal level. The increased oversight is intended to better serve those with homes in foreclosure, as well as those in danger of falling prey to predatory loan modification companies.
Evidence of this legislation is HB 09-1276, which went into effect Aug. 1, 2009, requiring that the Colorado Division of Housing post a document in clear view that informs homeowners facing foreclosure about the possibility of obtaining a foreclosure deferment.
And on November 24, Attorney General John Suthers announced the launch of “Operation Stolen Hope,” a federal and statewide crackdown on loan modification companies. Suthers said that he had taken action against 10 loan modification firms doing business in Colorado, nine of which are located outside the state.
The Attorney General said that the companies either failed to deliver results to Colorado consumers or engaged in deceptive advertising. The companies now will either have to comply with Colorado law or not do business in the state. And in direct outreach to consumers, the Attorney General’s office also released a flier with information for avoiding foreclosure and loan modification scams.
While there are signs that the housing market in Colorado is on the upturn, the foreclosure crisis is far from over. The real estate market tumult is closely tied to other factors like unemployment, loss of health coverage and fraying safety nets, all factors stressed by the fragile economy. In the meantime, organizations like the Colorado Foreclosure Hotline and online resources like Facing the Mortgage Crisis are trying to stem the trauma of foreclosure by helping more Colorado families stay in their homes.