Friday, July 18, 2014

Housing official: Foreclosures still big threat to Charlotte

Bob Kucab
On Thursday, a RealtyTrac report showed foreclosure rates in Charlotte and elsewhere continue to fall to levels not seen since before the housing bubble burst.

Time to pop open the champagne?

Not yet, says Bob Kucab, executive director at the N.C. Housing Finance Agency.

As Kucab pointed out to me Friday, the threat of lenders foreclosing on homes in Charlotte and across the state remains elevated for a variety of reasons.

“It’s still taking people longer to find jobs, and there still are people taking jobs that pay less than the job that they left,” he said.

“I think the economy has improved, but it’s been slow. And the jobs available, while they’re there, are sometimes not matching up with the needs of households.”

In Mecklenburg County, he said, many people remain at risk of losing their homes because of high unemployment.

In May, the most recent month for which there is data, the county’s unemployment rate was 6.7 percent. That was above the national rate, 6.3 percent, for the same month.

Kucab said it might take another two years before foreclosure filings in North Carolina drop to levels of 2000, a year that saw about 20,500 initial foreclosure notices in the state. This year, the state is on pace to record roughly 35,000 filings, he said.

Highlighting the ongoing need for foreclosure assistance in the state, this week the N.C. Foreclosure Prevention Fund announced an expansion of the program.

The program is designed to help people who are having trouble paying their mortgages because of a hardship, such as losing a job.

Through the expansion, the program, which was already available to veterans enrolled in certain programs approved by the The Department of Veterans Affairs, is now open to veterans who are receiving GI Bill benefits and obtaining education or job training.

The N.C. Foreclosure Prevention Fund, funded through the U.S. government's financial crisis-era bailout program, has prevented about 17,000 homes statewide from going into foreclosure, according to the finance agency.

Kucab, whose nonprofit agency administers the fund, said the program has capacity to help another 4,000 or so homeowners by the time the program sunsets in 2017. He said the foreclosure threat will likely still be looming even then.

“There will probably be need remaining at the end of the program, and that’s a sad fact.”

Those interested in seeking assistance from the program can call (888) 623-8631 or go to