Modesto Bee
Valley foreclosure numbers climb...J.N. Sbranti
Lenders repossessed 1,528 homes in the Northern San Joaquin Valley last month as mortgage defaults and foreclosures continue to mount.
During the past two years, 35,651 homes in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties defaulted on $13.53 billion worth of mortgages, according to ForeclosureRadar.com. The three counties have had some of the nation's highest default and foreclosure rates since the mortgage meltdown began in 2006.
In Stanislaus last month, lenders repossessed 531 homes, and 36 more were sold to bidders on the courthouse steps. Lenders took back 12,023 Stanislaus homes and lost $4.05 billion in unpaid mortgages during the past two years.
Thousands more homes are in foreclosure jeopardy.
During February, 1,124 Stanislaus homeowners were issued legal notices of default, the first step in the foreclosure process. According to ForeclosureRadar, an additional 547 delinquent homeowners were given their final warning — called a notice of trustee sale. The news is equally grim in Merced, where lenders repossessed 328 homes during February. That brought Merced's two-year total to 6,511 homes and $2.56 billion in defaults.
San Joaquin had 680 homes repossessed last month and 17,117 during the past two years, for a loss of $6.92 billion.
Unfortunately for lenders, most of the foreclosed homes they got stuck with were worth far less than what they were owed.
For California homes repossessed last month, the current market value was $201,052 below what lenders were owed on the default loans, according to ForeclosureRadar calculations.
Stockton Record
Fiscal impact of Lodi Wal-Mart debated...Daniel Thigpen
LODI - Stan Finberg said he's lowered rent for tenants in his shopping center, hoping to keep them in business during the economic meltdown.
On Wednesday night, Finberg told Lodi City Council members that if they allow Wal-Mart to build a Supercenter across town, his efforts might be in vain.
"If a Supercenter ever gets built in this area here," he said, "you're going to see a lot more decay than you already have."
Minutes later, resident Al Hernandez provided a different take.
"Wal-Mart is going to give this city more jobs and revenue," he said.
Although Wednesday's marathon City Council meeting was a do-over of a key Wal-Mart vote from December, the latest round took on a new tone as the economy has tanked.
With two large auto dealerships shuttered and retailers struggling, one question persisted: Will Wal-Mart aid Lodi's economy or push it further into peril?
Ultimately, the City Council voted 3-2 to certify an environmental analysis that in part studied the possible economic impacts of a 40-acre shopping center, to be anchored by a 216,710-square-foot Supercenter, if it were built at the southwest corner of Lower Sacramento Road and Kettleman Lane.
The vote kept the project alive but was not the last step.
The environmental study relies partly on a 2007 economic report that concluded a Supercenter might stunt business downtown and could cause retailers to close.
Wal-Mart critics noted the economy has vastly deteriorated since that report was authored.
Those conditions and effects worried Councilwoman Susan Hitchcock, who voted against the study with Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce.
"We need to support (businesses) here. We need to support our citizens," an emotional Hitchcock said.
Mayor Larry Hansen questioned dire predictions and cited nearby cities with Supercenters.
"All of them report that there's been no devastation from a Supercenter happening," Hansen said. "It's created new businesses."
Wednesday's meeting actually was a redo of a key Dec. 10 vote that opponents challenged as a violation of the state open meetings law. That meeting attracted more people than could fit in the council chambers, and opponents threatened to sue over the limited attendance.
City leaders later rescinded that vote and scheduled another vote to be held at the larger Hutchins Street Square auditorium.
The latest
What happened: The Lodi City Council late Wednesday voted 3-2 to certify a report on a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter's possible environmental impacts.
What's next: The project heads back to the city Planning Commission for further review.
San Francisco Chronicle
Ban on commercial fishing of chinook extended...Peter Fimrite
The grim reality of a devastated salmon fishery hit home Thursday when the Pacific Fishery Management Council agreed to another ban on commercial fishing of chinook in California and Oregon.
It is the second straight year that the sea salts who make their living off the fabled fall run of Sacramento River king salmon will be grounded.
None of the three options approved by the 14-member panel made up of fishing interests, tribal representatives and conservation groups from California, Oregon and Washington included any commercial fishing in the two states.
The decision came after a week of testimony in Seattle that included mounting bad news about the California fishery.
Severe restrictions and bans on sportfishing were also included in the package, which will be narrowed down to a final option early next month.
"It's grim," said Dave Bitts, president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "The ocean conditions were supposed to have turned around and gotten a lot better, so I'm kind of baffled, frankly."
The blame falls directly on the Central Valley fall run of chinook. Only about 66,000 adult salmon returned to spawn last fall in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, according to biologists whose estimates are based on a count of egg nests in the riverbed. It was the lowest return on record.
The collapse forced regulators to ban ocean salmon fishing in California and most of Oregon last year, the first time that had ever been done.
Fisheries biologists are projecting that the fall run of chinook this year will be almost twice as plentiful as last year, a fact that experts characterized as a thin thread of a silver lining. Still, the numbers will barely reach the council's minimum goal of 122,000 fish even if there is no fishing, according to the projections.
The council, which was established three decades ago to manage the Pacific Coast fishery, did include a little sportfishing in California in one of the options. If that option eventually gets approved, it would mean recreational fishermen could take chinook between Aug. 29 and Sept. 7 only in an area extending from the mouth of the Klamath River to southern Oregon.
Disastrous fall run
All three options would allow some commercial and sportfishing of hatchery-raised coho salmon - identifiable because the fleshy adipose fins have been removed - in Oregon during July and August.
Chinook, or king, salmon, pass through San Francisco Bay and roam the Pacific Ocean as far away as Alaska before returning three years later to spawn where they were born in the Sacramento River and its tributaries.
The fall run - in September and October - has for decades been the backbone of the West Coast fishing industry.
At its peak, it exceeded 800,000 fish. Over the past decade, the numbers had consistently topped 250,000.
Until last year, the worst run on record was in 1992, when only 81,000 chinook returned to spawn.
Various possible causes
Changing ocean conditions, diversions of freshwater in the delta to cities and farms, pumping operations and exposure to pollutants have all been trotted out as culprits in the demise of the salmon. Some fishermen believe ravenous sea lions are to blame, but most environmentalists have consistently pointed to increases in water exports out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta as the primary reason for the decline.
Whatever the cause, more than 2,200 fishermen and fishing industry workers lost their jobs as a result of last year's ban. Fishing communities and fishing-related businesses lost more than $250 million. Indirect economic impacts were even larger, according to fishing industry representatives.
Report forthcoming
Federal fishery scientists are expected to release a report next week on possible reasons for the collapse, but it is already too late for the salmon this year.
The council will make a final recommendation to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service in early April. The final decision on the restrictions is expected to be made by May 1.
Restrictions on river fishing will be made at a later date by the California Department of Fish and Game, which allowed some 600 chinook to be caught last year, angering many commercial fishermen who felt it was wrong to allow any fishing.
Lawmakers push alternative to Yucca Mtn....(03-12) 17:00 PDT WASHINGTON, CA (AP)
With the federal government backing away from a nuclear waste dump in Nevada, the state's two senators say a national commission should be created that would study alternatives to Yucca Mountain.
The senators, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican John Ensign, say the commission would have two years to examine alternatives for long-term nuclear waste disposal. The two introduced a bill Thursday that would create such a commission.
The commission will consider having the federal government take title to nuclear waste, but another option will be chartering a federal corporation to manage it. The trade group representing the nuclear industry also has argued for a new study panel but has warned that unilaterally abandoning the Yucca Mountain project would lead to lawsuits.
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Water fight between city, UC Santa Cruz rears its head again...GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER
SANTA CRUZ -- The fight, it appears, is back on.
A group of old-guard progressives, led by former county supervisors Gary Patton and Mardi Wormhoudt, is pushing city leaders to examine the amount of water they have left and asking if nearly half of that should support planned UC Santa Cruz growth.
"The magnitude of what's proposed by the university is a real concern," Wormhoudt said.
But city leaders, while acknowledging the importance of planning, said water rights are first-come, first-served and just because plans to expand are approved doesn't mean the university automatically gets the water.
Plus, said City Councilman Ryan Coonerty, if a deal on future water use struck last summer between the city and university were to crumble, UC leaders could walk away from the promises they made to the city. Those include payment for water services used, mandatory rationing if needed in times of drought and immediate, increased conservation.
"If it gets to the point where the city has no more water, the university has agreed to -- this was a major concession on their part -- the university has agreed to a moratorium," Coonerty said.
That concession goes against a contract signed by the city and UCSC in 1962 granting the campus all the water it needs up to 30,000 students, without exceptions.
At issue is a highly touted deal signed last year between the city, county, university and others who previously fought university growth that details how and where the campus will grow. The deal also outlines how UCSC will help the city accommodate the campus' jump from 15,000 to 19,500 students. When it was signed last summer the agreement settled countless lawsuits between the groups, who had sued and counter-sued over the campus plans. Many hailed it as a new era in town-gown relations.
But issues are arising now as the Community Water Coalition -- a new group made up of longtime progressives Patton, Wormhoudt and Denise and Alan Holbert, among others -- questions if the agreement should allow development that could require up to 130 million gallons of water per year. In a normal year, the city's water department has an estimated 300 million gallon surplus to provide for growth.
Water coalition members question if the university is the best recipient of much of the city's remaining water, and say they will fight campus growth at the county's Local Agency Formation Commission. Under the agreement, that body must approve campus expansion plans before building can begin.
University officials declined to discuss the argument in detail.
"The settlement agreement was reached after more than seven months of challenging but productive discussions with representatives of the city of Santa Cruz, county of Santa Cruz, Coalition to Limit University Expansion, other community members and the university," said UCSC spokesman Jim Burns. "We are honoring the commitments that UCSC made in this landmark agreement."
Already, the water coalition has asked why the city is helping the university submit its LAFCO applications, saying that assistance violates the spirit of ballot measures passed in 2006 requiring voters to approve any new water supply to UCSC. Those measures were thrown out by the court, but later instated by the City Council.
"The voters have got to say yes," Patton said. If "it does not go before a vote of the people, I think the people would be mad."
But city leaders say the agreement legally requires them to help out. In addition, the trade-offs they received -- like traffic mitigation, water conservation, more student housing and other concessions -- are worth the assistance, because under the previous contract and as an arm of the state, the university didn't need to concede anything at all.
"The agreement provides a huge number of benefits to the community in water, housing and quality of life," Coonerty said. "I don't believe that we should put those in jeopardy."
Monterey Herald
UC-Santa Cruz, NASA plan new campus in Mountain View...The Monterey County Herald
SANTA CRUZ — The University of California, Santa Cruz, and Foothill-De Anza Community College District today announced a partnership with NASA Ames Research Center to establish a sustainable community for education and research at the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field.
UCSC and Foothill-De Anza have formed a nonprofit entity called University Associates-Silicon Valley LLC, which signed a lease with NASA in December for 75 acres of land in the NASA Research Park.
The goal of the partnership is to create a prototype for an environmentally sustainable community and contribute to the economic vitality of the region, while providing a unique collaborative environment in which to deliver innovative education and research, said UCSC chancellor George Blumenthal.
"Our vision is to seed innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainability through the creative reuse of an important public asset for regional benefit. We aim to establish world-class programs and facilities dedicated to preparing the workforce of the future and to conducting research at the forefront of science and technology," Blumenthal said.
"Today's announcement marks the launch of an exciting new collaboration that brings together some of the world's leading educators and scientists to create a world-class community for future research and development," said S. Pete Worden, director of NASA Ames Research Center. "NASA is proud to be associated with this dynamic venture and looks forward to seeing the vision become a reality."
Martha Kanter, chancellor of Foothill-De Anza, said, "Being part of this unique education and research community would give Foothill-De Anza students new opportunities to learn in a world-class research environment. It opens up exciting possibilities for preparing our students to enter Silicon Valley's clean-tech green-tech workforce or pursue advanced study in science, technology, engineering, and emerging career fields."
Carnegie Mellon University, Santa Clara University, and San Jose State University have also been involved in the planning and may eventually join the partnership, said Joseph Miller, UCSC's vice provost for Silicon Valley Initiatives.
"We expect other academic institutions will join the partnership to take advantage of this unique opportunity," Miller said. "We have secured a long-term lease agreement on a choice location in the heart of Silicon Valley, at NASA Ames and adjacent to the most innovative companies in the world. We will be creating a new green community and working together to tackle some of the most pressing problems facing our society."
This vision includes an integrated community featuring state-of-the-art research and teaching laboratories, shared classrooms, housing, accommodations for industrial partners, and modern infrastructure. Joint academic initiatives are planned in science, engineering, and management to keep Silicon Valley at the forefront of innovation and technology leadership.
The community will be designed to have a minimal carbon footprint and will serve as a model site to deploy and validate new renewable-energy and resource-conservation systems. As a real-world setting for studying and testing potential solutions, it will provide an invaluable resource for faculty engaged in sustainability research and teaching programs at UCSC and other partner institutions.
For students, the collaboration will offer joint academic programs that draw upon the talents and expertise of each partner institution. "Being part of the University Associates presents new opportunities for our district to create accelerated programs of study with our partner universities," Kanter said.
The project supports the missions of NASA. NASA's goal is to establish the NASA Research Park (NRP) as a shared-use R&D and education campus for collaborations among government, industry, academia, and nonprofit organizations. More than 50 industry, university and nonprofit organizations are already located in the NRP, supporting NASA's mission in three areas: advancing NASA's research leadership; facilitating science and technology education; and creating a unique community of researchers, students and educators. Students attending the new campus will provide a source of future employees to strengthen NASA's workforce and help the agency achieve its exploration objectives.
UCSC has led the planning for this innovative collaboration, which builds on the campus's highly successful existing partnerships with NASA Ames, such as the University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) and the Advanced Studies Laboratories (ASL).
Local congressmembers — including U.S. Representatives Anna Eshoo, Mike Honda, Zoe Lofgren and others— provided valuable support for the lease agreement with NASA, Miller said. "We are extremely grateful for the strong support from local leaders, which was vitally important to our success in moving this forward," he said.
The next critical step for the partnership is to undertake thorough evaluation and planning studies in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), said William Berry, newly named president of University Associates. University Associates is engaged in ongoing efforts to obtain community input and to determine how best to ensure that any development addresses community needs and is effectively integrated into the surrounding cities.
Development of the site would be undertaken through a public-private partnership. University Associates plans to select and oversee a "master developer," who would attract the external capital investment required to complete the project, which is expected to cost more than $1 billion. The property will remain in federal ownership, with University Associates and the master developer responsible for managing and developing the site.
The timeline for the development depends on multiple factors, including CEQA compliance, the financial climate, market demands, and potential partnerships with industry. Work on the site could begin as early as 2013, with initial occupancy as early as 2015.
Los Angeles Times
Lodi council approves environmental reports for Wal-Mart Supercenter...Maggie Creamer, Lodi News-Sentinel 
A shopping center including the Wal-Mart Supercenter is one step closer after the Lodi City Council voted to approve its environmental reports in a 3-2 vote on Wednesday night.
"This process is going to continue, and it's not going to end tonight," Mayor Larry Hansen said.
Councilwomen Susan Hitchcock and JoAnne Mounce both voted against the project.
In an emotional speech, Hitchcock said while the council have received report after report on the topic, it is the people who might lose their jobs that she is concerned about.
"It is about their income, their living wage. ... I'm proud of the people who stood up to protect the quality of life of people in Lodi," Hitchcock said.
She said there is too much conflicting information on what environmental impacts the shopping center will have on Lodi to approve the reports.
But Councilman Bob Johnson said the council has reviewed the environmental reports thoroughly and the Wal-Mart Supercenter has had to undergo more scrutiny than other projects.
"If we were talking about a Costco or a Kohl's on this corner, this would have been approved 10 years ago," he said.
The Supercenter would anchor the 13-building, 340,000 square-foot Lodi Shopping Center project. It would be built on the southwest corner of Kettleman Lane and Lower Sacramento Road.
Through the vote, the council is overturning a Planning Commission decision to reject the reports as inadequate. The Planning Commission still has to review remaining elements of the environmental report, including the map of the project, architectural plans and an application to sell alcoholic beverages.
While the council's only decision was on whether or not to approve the environmental reports, the public spoke about the advantages or disadvantages of the shopping center, how the economy has changed since the reports were drafted and even how people have been treated at previous meetings.
With Lodi losing two car dealerships, the sales tax from Wal-Mart could help the city's sales tax revenue, Lodi resident Cheryl Nitschke said.
"I've heard so much about keeping Lodi a small-town ... Lodi, I'm sorry, is not a small-town, and it's never going to be," she said.
With the downturn in the economy, Stan Finberg said he has had to drastically cut the rent for tenants at the shopping center he manages at Lodi Avenue and Cherokee Lane to keep them in business.
"I'm not an attorney, accountant or economist, but I'm a human person," Finberg said. "When I talk with my tenants at the shopping center, they are like family."
Quotes from the Wal-Mart meeting
"It's crazy to turn away a construction project that will take three years to build."
— Jason Elliot, local businessman, who works with Browman Development Company
"It's going to take too many resources in the city for us to be able to afford it at this time."
— Quintin Williams, employee of Food-4-Less
"The wine industry is Lodi's future and can turn Lodi into a great community ... Somehow we got to get past this and on to things that really make sense for Lodi."
— Dennis Sattler, Lodi resident
"When Food-4-Less opened, there was a big bruhaha that it would close down all the grocery stores ... nothing closed down."
— Andrea Violett, Lodi resident
"When you live here every day, it's hard to look long-term when you have to look at friends and family who could lose jobs and homes."
— Brad Clark, Lodi resident
"I'll tell you what. I'm a little fed up with Wal-Mart being a dirty Dane ... I feel that people here in Lodi will shop where the best bargains are ... People who haul concrete, electricians and plumbers, it will give these people who are not working jobs."
— Ruth Miller, Lodi resident
Toward the end, part of the public comment began to focus on how supporters and opponents were treated at previous meetings.
Echoing a Wal-Mart spokesman's comments about employees being treated disrespectfully, Blue Cross employee Al Hernandez said the at the last meeting he was harassed on the way to his car because he was wearing a button in support of project.
Resident Catherine Brown vigorously spoke about how she did not like how Wal-Mart representatives addressed the council.
"I feel like they are turning this into a bully situation. ... A lot times in my life, I haven't got what I wanted," she said.
Council members and the public heard a similar presentation from city staff, statements from lawyers in support and opposition of the Supercenter and comments from the public at a December meeting.
The meeting was repeated to avoid legal action from the Lodi group Citizens for Open Government. The group threatened litigation because there were not enough seats in Carnegie Forum for the more than 200 people who showed up at the December meeting.
Foreclosure Filings in U.S. Jumped 30% in February (Update3)...Dan Levy
March 12 (Bloomberg) -- Foreclosure filings in the U.S. climbed 30 percent in February from a year earlier as the worsening economy thwarted efforts by the government and lenders to prevent homeowners from losing property, RealtyTrac Inc. said.
A total of 290,631 homes received a default or auction notice or were seized by the lender, the Irvine, California-based seller of default data said in a statement today. Properties that got a foreclosure filing for the first time totaled 161,976, the highest in RealtyTrac records dating to January 2005.
“More people have lost their incomes or are underwater on their mortgages, so a new housing plan won’t change those facts by itself,” Barry Eichengreen, professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, said in an interview.
The U.S. housing crisis is deepening as President Barack Obama attempts a $275 billion rescue to help borrowers with sinking home values or unaffordable loans. Declining prices sapped $2.4 trillion in value from the nation’s residential market last year, according to First American CoreLogic. A measure of prices in 20 U.S. cities has fallen every month since January 2007, the S&P/Case Shiller index shows.
Rising unemployment also is making it harder for homeowners to keep up with payments. The U.S. jobless rate rose to 8.1 percent in February, the highest in more than 25 years, according to the Labor Department.
Wait and See
Some of the top U.S. lenders own as many as 700,000 foreclosed homes they have yet to offer for sale, said Rick Sharga, executive vice president for marketing for RealtyTrac.
The banks may be waiting to see how U.S. government plans develop before selling the properties, Sharga said. The lenders and government-owned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two biggest U.S. mortgage financing companies, have already extended temporary foreclosure moratoriums.
The combined percentage of loans in foreclosure or at least one payment past due in the fourth quarter was 11.18 percent, the highest on record, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington. The percentage of loans 60 days past due and 90 days or more late also were at record levels.
“Many elements are lined up to suggest we’ll have more foreclosure activity in the future, maybe an all-time high,” Sharga said.
Obama introduced a plan Feb. 18 to use $75 billion of public funds to entice lenders to modify or refinance home loans, stem foreclosures and rescue delinquent homeowners. The president also said the Treasury Department would provide as much as $200 billion in additional backing for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to free up funding for new mortgages.
‘Financial Hardship’
To qualify for a refinanced loan, applicants will have to fully document income with pay stubs and tax returns, and sign an affidavit attesting to “financial hardship,” according to Treasury.
One in 440 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing last month, and Nevada, Arizona and California had the highest foreclosure rates, RealtyTrac said. The February total was the third-highest on record. Filings rose 6 percent from January.
New foreclosures rose 8 percent from 150,432 in January.
Idaho, Illinois and Oregon joined the list of the top 10 states with the highest rates, a sign that rising unemployment is now pushing defaults, Sharga said. Florida, Michigan, Georgia and Ohio were also in the top 10.
California had the highest total with 80,775 foreclosure filings in February, a 51 percent increase from a year earlier. Auction sale notices almost tripled to 18,831.
Florida Rankings
Florida had the second-most filings at 46,391, a 43 percent increase from a year earlier. Auction sale notices climbed 158 percent and bank seizures rose 128 percent.
Arizona ranked third in filings with 18,119, up 88 percent from February 2008.
New York had the 35th highest rate and 4,301 filings. New Jersey ranked 29th and had 3,279 filings. Connecticut was 14th with 2,220 filings, RealtyTrac said.
Las Vegas had the highest foreclosure rate among metropolitan areas with populations of 200,000 or more. One in 60 housing units there received a filing, more than seven times the national average.
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida had the second-highest rate: one in every 65 housing units, according to RealtyTrac. Five California cities ranked third through seventh: Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Riverside-San Bernardino and Bakersfield.
Underwater Owners
Reno-Sparks, Nevada was eighth; Phoenix was ninth; and Vallejo-Fairfield, California ranked tenth, RealtyTrac said.
The company collects data from more than 2,200 counties that are home to more than 90 percent of the U.S. population.
More than 8.3 million U.S. borrowers owed more than their loans were worth in the fourth quarter of 2008, and an additional 2.2 million will be underwater if home prices decline another 5 percent, according to First American CoreLogic.
An average of 230,000 borrowers a month slid to negative equity in the quarter, led by California with 43,000, Texas with 16,000 and Nevada with 15,000, the Santa Ana, California-based seller of mortgage data said March 4.
CNN Money
Rise in foreclosures 'a shock'
February saw an unexpected jump in foreclosure filings as the weak economy puts more pressure on borrowers...Les Christie
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The foreclosure picture suddenly darkened again in February.
More than 74,000 homes were lost to bank repossessions during the month, up from 67,000 in January, according to a regular monthly report from RealtyTrac, the online marketer of foreclosed properties. Nearly 1.2 million have been lost since the foreclosure crisis hit in August 2007.
The number of foreclosure filings rose 6% during the month after falling 10% in January. Worse, filings leaped nearly 30% compared with February 2008. And the results confounded expectations: A downtrend had been expected due to the numerous foreclosure moratoriums in effect during the month.
"We were very surprised," said RealtyTrac spokesman Rick Sharga. "The moratorium were led by big players like Fannie and Freddie and all the major banks. It was supposed to cover the whole waterfront. The fact that foreclosures still went up was a shock."
A particularly troubling aspect of the report was that, for many borrowers, once they go into default, they never get out despite moratorium efforts. That's borne out by comparing bank repossessions - homes actually lost by borrowers - with total foreclosure filings: Nationally, repossessions increased 11% for the month, almost double the 6% rise for filings.
The same holds true for year-over-year figures: February filings jumped 30% compared with last year but repossessions rang up a 60% gain.
The reason so many people lose their homes once they are in default is partially attributed to the severe home price drops recorded in many of the worst-hit areas. When borrowers are severely underwater, owing more than their homes are worth, it removes an incentive to keep up with mortgage payments. Some simply walk away.
The worst hit states
Many states that had previously escaped the worst ravages of the foreclosure plague have started to feel the effects. In South Carolina, foreclosure filings, which include notices of default, notices of foreclosure sale and bank repossessions, skyrocketed 254% compared with last February. The state recorded a filing for every 818 households, the 20th highest rate among the states.
As foreclosures soared, so did South Carolina's unemployment. By January, that had reached 10.4%, the second highest rate, after Michigan, in the nation. It rose 1.6 percentage points higher than December, the biggest increase in any state, and it jumped 4.7 percentage points over the past 12 months, also more than anywhere else.
According to the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America CEO, Bruce Marks, poorly underwritten mortgages is still the main source of foreclosures in the state. "It continues to be problem mortgages," he said, "loans that were unaffordable from the start. But unemployment is adding to that."
NACA, which counsels at-risk borrowers and refinances many into low-cost mortgages, is throwing a counseling event in Columbia, S.C., this weekend. The agency expects to host more than 20,000 attendees and has already pre-registered more than 7,500 homeowners.
The dubious honor of worst foreclosure state still belongs to Nevada, where one of every 70 households had a filing. Foreclosures are up 156% from last February and 9% from January. More than 2,800 homes were repossessed by banks during the month.
Second was Arizona, with one filing for every 147 households, up 88% year-over-year and 23% from January. California, with nearly 81,000 filings, had more than any other state, with a rate of one for every 165 households. Florida had more than 46,000, one for every 188 households.
Other hard hit states were Idaho (one in 358), Michigan (one in 360) and Illinois (one in 369).
Worst hit cities
Among metro areas, Las Vegas, where one in every 60 housing units received a foreclosure filing in February, led all other cities with populations of 200,000 or more.Another Nevada city, Reno, had one for every 108 hosueholds, the eighth highest rate in the nation.
The Cape Coral, Fla., metro area had the second highest foreclosure rate in February, with one in 65 housing units.
The rest of the top 10 consisted of six California cities: Stockton (one in 67), Modesto (one in 68), Merced (one in 74), Riverside-San Bernardino (one in 80), Bakersfield (one in 85) and Vallejo-Fairfield (one in 111).
Phoenix rounded out the top 10, with one in every 110 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing. The Phoenix metro area posted the ninth highest foreclosure rate in February.