Just Listed brings you the latest news and information from the Twin Cities-area commercial and residential real estate market and beyond from veteran reporters Jim Buchta and Kristen Leigh Painter.

Should the government turn its foreclosures into rentals?

Posted by: Jim Buchta under Foreclosures Updated: August 11, 2011 - 4:03 PM

Fewer Minnesota homeowners got foreclosure notices last month, but not necessarily because they’re having an easier time paying their mortgage.RealtyTrac said today that Minnesota foreclosures fell 30 percent from June and 22 percent from last year. Across the country foreclosure filings were down 4 percent compared with June and 35 percent compared with July 2010.

In Minnesota, foreclosures were particularly concentrated in Wright and Anoka Counties, which had the highest foreclosure rates in the state — nearly double the statewide average. Nationwide one in every 611 households received some sort of foreclosure notice. In Minnesota one in every 960 households was in foreclosure, the 21st highest rate in the nation. The rate was more than double in Wright County, where one in every 385 households received a notice, and in Anoka County, with one in 436 getting a notice.

The RealtyTrac data reflects a similar trend detailed by the Minnesota Homeownership Center in its quarterly statewide foreclosure report released Wednesday. It said that foreclosure activity in the state during the first half of the year is down 14 percent compared with last year, but default rates are still at elevated levels that will take years to clear out.

Both reports reveal a troubling trend in outlying metro-area suburbs where default rates regularly outpace the metro average. Julie Gugin of the Minnesota Homeownership Center offers one explanation: Those exurban counties have an unusually high number of first-time buyers who moved to those areas to take advantage of more affordable housing. These also tended to be families that were already living on the edge, relying on overtime and second jobs to make ends meet.

James Saccacio, the chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, attributed declines in overall foreclosure activity to robo-signing related processing delays and local and national attempts to prevent foreclosures. The foreclosure problem is being closely watched because it’s widely thought that the housing market won’t recover until default rates return to more normal levels. There’s already a glut of unsold foreclosures on the market and more are on their way.

On Wednesday the Obama administration said it was considering turning government-owned foreclosures into rentals in an attempt to help stabilize neighborhoods and avoid flooding the market with more distressed listings. The government is in the process of soliciting ideas from the private sector on just how to accomplish the task. The approximately 250,000 properties in question are those that are owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration. There are estimates that another quarter-million properties are in foreclosure and awaiting resale

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