Georgia lags in foreclosure help

Georgia lags in foreclosure help

State says it will meet goal of aiding at-risk homeowners.

By Dan Chapman dchapman@ajc.com 

   Georgia, given $340 million in federal money three years ago to help at-risk homeowners, has spent only a quarter of the money, according to a newly released Inspector General’s report critical of the state’s efforts to ease the foreclosure crisis.   Only Indiana and Alabama have dispensed proportionately less.   About 5,900 Georgians fewer than one-third the number initially estimated have received assistance intended to save homes and neighborhoods.

   “It’s very concerning that we’re more than half way through the program and the funds will have go back to the Treasury if not used by 2017,” said Kristen Tullos, an attorney with Atlanta Legal Aid Society, which assists homeowners facing foreclosure. “We are not on track at this point.”   But the state Department of Community Affairs, which administers the so-called “hardest hit fund,” said this week that Georgia will meet its foreclosure target.  “We’ve turned the corner, and we’re definitely on track to spend all the funds by Dec. 31, 2017,” said Brenda McGee, the program’s director. The Great Recession killed hundreds of thousands of Georgia jobs and left homeowners unable to pay mortgages. Nearly a quarter million metro Atlanta households plunged into foreclosure since 2006. neighborhoods primarily across the region’s southern tier, as well as in Gwinnett County, deteriorated as vandalism, blight and weeds took root. 2010 was the foreclosure nadir across metro Atlanta with 93,000 foreclosure notices.   As the economy improved, and unemployment dropped, foreclosures plummeted. Metro Atlanta should see fewer than 20,000 foreclosures this year as the region returns to pre-recession levels of housing distress. But the scars to communities and homeowners — remain. And Georgia maintains the nation’s highest unemployment rate.

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