U neighborhoods escape mortgage crisis trends

There were more than 3,000 foreclosures in the city in 2008 and 2,074 in 2009.

by Kyle Potter

Three years after the mortgage crisis struck, communities throughout the metro area are trying to recover from a staggering number of foreclosures. Near the University of Minnesota campus, foreclosure numbers are negligible in comparison. The four off-campus neighborhoods University students usually settle in âÄî Marcy-Holmes, Prospect Park, Southeast Como and Cedar-Riverside âÄî have among the lowest number of foreclosures in Minneapolis over the past three years. According to the Hennepin County Sheriff OfficeâÄôs foreclosure database, there were just 12 foreclosure sales in those neighborhoods in the last year. Foreclosures occur when a property owner fails to make mortgage payments. When the mortgage crisis struck in 2007, there were 2,895 Minneapolis foreclosures, which was an 80 percent increase over those in 2006. There were more than 3,000 foreclosures in the city in 2008 and 2,074 in 2009. Foreclosure sales in off-campus residential areas followed the same rise-and-fall pattern, but the numbers remained in the 10s and 20s during those years. While he acknowledged that the mortgage crisis affected the neighborhood, Southeast Como Improvement Association neighborhood coordinator James De Sota said foreclosures still havenâÄôt been a big issue in University neighborhoods. âÄúIt basically went from none to some,âÄù he said. âÄúIt was never as widespread here as it was on the north side of Minneapolis.âÄù SECIA works to maintain the houses and environment in the neighborhood, which is one of the hot spots for students who want to live off-campus. De Sota said SECIA didnâÄôt feel the need to invest in a program to counter foreclosures as other neighborhood organizations have done, because the numbers were so low. He speculated that just seven houses in the area remain vacant. The contrast between University neighborhoods and the rest of Minneapolis is stark. Just last month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it will give Minneapolis more than $19 million in grants to repair vacant homes that were foreclosed. The neighborhoods within Ward 2, which include parts of the University area, may not need any of that funding. According to the city of Minneapolis Web site, Ward 2 has consistently reported the lowest number of foreclosure sales among all other wards. In 2008, Ward 2 reported 33 foreclosure sales, while most wards reported several hundred. De Sota said he thinks Southeast Como has not been affected as much as other neighborhoods because of the demographic it serves. âÄúWe see a lot of the properties being flipped from single family homes to rental properties,âÄù he said. âÄúAs long as theyâÄôre filled, theyâÄôre renting out at a pretty good rate.âÄù Mark Karon, director of University Student Legal Service, said high rent and steady demand have minimized foreclosure sales for landlords in these neighborhoods. âÄúThey generally donâÄôt experience any major difficulties unless itâÄôs been vacant for a period of time or itâÄôs a new purchase,âÄù he said. USLS works with students who have been notified that the property they are leasing has been foreclosed. Karon guessed that the majority of the foreclosures he has dealt with were caused by a period of vacancy in which the landlord was unable to find a tenant. Karon encouraged any student who was notified of a foreclosure to immediately contact USLS. He said USLS staff will go over the legal obligations of the tenant and ensure that rent payments are made correctly. These services are free of charge. Eliot Searls, a home mortgage consultant at Wells Fargo in North Minneapolis, has seen much of the mortgage crisis firsthand. âÄúBanks were giving the money away too cheap, and people were getting loans they knew they couldnâÄôt afford to pay,âÄù he said of its origin. He said stricter guidelines for loan approval, home buyer programs and a lower finance rate have helped to slow the crisis in Minneapolis. And compared to other cities across the nation, like Washington, D.C., Searls said he thinks the foreclosure problem here is much less severe. Searls said he thinks the HUD grant may signal the end of the mortgage crisis altogether. That grant, which will be disbursed in the coming months, will help communities that need it most. De Sota doesnâÄôt think Southeast Como will receive much, if any. âÄúI would think that the money will certainly go to other neighborhoods before it comes here, and deservedly so,âÄù he said, pointing again to north Minneapolis. âÄúThere are a lot of places in the city that need a lot of help.âÄù