Foreclosure rate under fire

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 14, 2011 - 1:55 PM

Church group urges St. Paul City Council to help keep families in their homes and stem vacancies.

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Demonstrators from the OccupyMN anti-Wall Street protest marched into the Wells Fargo Bank branch at Marquette Avenue and 6th Street during the lunch hour Tuesday. Escorted by police, they briefly occupied the lobby, chanting slogans and waving their fists and posters, then left.

Photo: David Denney, Star Tribune

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St. Paul's poorest neighborhoods have endured much of the pain in the foreclosure crisis, says a Twin Cities religious coalition that on Tuesday urged action to help stem foreclosure and home vacancy rates.

The group, ISAIAH, is asking City Council members to back higher vacant-home registration fees and to endorse a program giving homeowners a chance to enter mediation before lenders can foreclose.

The recommendations were part of a study released at a public meeting Tuesday night at St. James AME Church.

ISAIAH is among several church, community and labor groups engaged in a weeklong campaign that is taking on banks and elected officials as part of the "Don't Foreclose On the American Dream" movement. On Monday, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change detailed how foreclosures hurt Minneapolis schools.

The events are not tied to OccupyMN, the anti-Wall Street protest that began last week in downtown Minneapolis -- and which saw about 200 demonstrators march Tuesday to the Wells Fargo Center at 6th Street and Marquette Avenue.

"Banks got bailed out, we got sold out," people chanted.

The protesters entered the bank's lobby, shouted slogans for a short time, and left.

The demonstrators, many from a group called TakeAction Minnesota, began the march at the Hennepin County Government Center plaza, site of the anti-Wall Street "occupation." Demonstrations will continue through the week.

In St. Paul, the number of registered vacant buildings went from 370 in 2004 to more than 2,000 in 2008. The number decreased to about 1,500 last year, the city says.

ISAIAH contends that more owners might sell or rehab their properties if the city's $1,100 vacant-home registration fee was nearer the $6,746 that the group says is charged annually in Minneapolis.

The push for a foreclosure mediation program comes two years after former Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a bill dubbed the Homeowner-Lender Mediation Act. ISAIAH says a state program is preferred, but that cities and counties could start their own programs, too.

Staff writer Randy Furst contributed to this report. Anthony Lonetree • 612-875-0041

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