Foreclosures up in Mahoning and Trumbull counties

WARREN — The number of foreclosures in Trumbull and Mahoning counties over the last two years put the counties in the top 10 in Ohio, according to a new report released by Policy Matters Ohio.

And the number of foreclosures climbed from 2014 to 2015 in the two Mahoning Valley counties, while most other areas of the state saw declines in foreclosure filings, according to the reports.

According to the report, 926 foreclosures were filed in 2015 in Trumbull County, up from 874 in 2014. Mahoning County saw 1,173 foreclosures in in 2015, up from 1,153 in 2014.

On the up side, however, the two local counties had their lowest number of foreclosures since 2001, when Trumbull had 882 filings and Mahoning had 1,012.

Statewide, Ohio experienced a 7.4 percent decrease in foreclosure filings during the same period. There were 43,727 foreclosure filings in 2014 compared to 40,479 in 2015.

About 60 percent of the state’s foreclosure filings were in the state’s 10 largest counties with Franklin County reporting the state’s largest percentage drop in foreclosures at 30 percent, followed by Lucas, Stark and Cuyahoga.

Foreclosures began increasing in 1996, following the onset of subprime lending. Since then, there have been more than a million foreclosure filings in the state. During that time, Trumbull County has had 20,359 foreclosure filings, and Mahoning has had 25,154 filings.

Causes of the high number of foreclosures during the last 20 years, include subprime lending, job and population declines in the state, and the state and national financial recessions.

“Things that can be done to reduce the number of foreclosures include increasing funding for financial counseling  and legal aid; restoring Local Government Funds to cities and townships; and providing state support for local efforts to address neighborhood plight,” said Amanda Woodrum, one of the two authors of the “Ohio Foreclosures 2016: Damage in the Wake of the Crisis.”

The return of local government funds from the state to communities would help them design  programs that addresses specific concerns of their communities.

Woodrum said there needs to be a comprehensive plan for foreclosure prevention.

“There is less funding for foreclosure prevention today than there was  during the height of the housing crisis,” Woodrum said, with most federal and state funds now more geared at demolitions, despite the large number of property owners whose homes are underwater — a term that means the property owner owes more on the home than it’s currently worth.

Matt Martin, executive director of the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, which operates the Trumbull County Land Bank, and Debora Flora, director of the Mahoning County Land Bank, agree their agencies have worked to decrease the number of tax foreclosures in recent years.

The land banks work work to obtain the worse of the counties abandoned properties to, whenever possible, get them renovated and resold to families, but more often, have the properties demolished and the land under them either purchased by neighbors reused for public projects.

“We are not looking to have properties in which people are living foreclosed on,” Martin said. “Often the properties we take have been vacant for years. The properties have been a blight to the neighborhoods for years.”

Flora said the Mahoning land bank has demolished approximately 250 foreclosed and vacant properties in the four years the land bank has been in operation. It has about $14 million in state and federal grants for acquisition, demolition and restoration of the properties.

“We need more resources for foreclosure prevention program,” Martin said. “Hopefully, with the increased resources, people will be able to figure out how to stay in their homes.”