How do we rebuild communities in the wake of the foreclosure crisis?

New Tenants, New Neighbors

If a house is owned by a bank and the bank already owns lots of other properties, why would they want to work hard to fill the house in your neighborhood? Because the proverbial squeaky wheel gets the grease. It's possible for community organizations and leaders to call or write lenders to find out the status of a property. They may be willing to reveal how much they'd like to get for the house and how they're going to sell it (if there's not already a sign). You could also try to convince the lender to list the house with a local real estate agent instead of a big national company, which might make it easier to sell. Gather up any information you can find about home sales in your area to bolster your case.

Project No One Leaves and other organizations have also pressured big lenders to sell properties to non-profit community banks, which in turn often mortgage them (at better terms) or rent them to either the current tenants or new homeowners. While the organization tries to stave off eviction, the bank works with the current homeowners to qualify them for a loan. Usually, you have to prove steady income and that you have a documented hardship that has made you fall behind on your mortgage. But if you're in this situation and qualify, the community bank will then make an offer to the original lender for the home. Then you get to stay in your house. Community banks or other local lenders may also offer very low-interest loans in communities that need serious revitalization to attract buyers.

We think of Habitat for Humanity as an organization that builds new homes, but it also has a Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. It's designed to bring together communities, local governments, businesses, nonprofits and even churches and other religious centers. The idea is that you can't just rely on one of these groups to rebuild a community -- everybody has to work together. One part of the initiative involves rehabbing abandoned or foreclosed homes, getting them ready for prospective buyers. Everybody's a stakeholder. Businesses need new customers. The government wants the tax revenue, not another abandoned home on its code enforcement roster. And once the house is ready to go? Nonprofits like NeighborWorks America offer numerous resources to educate community organizations on how to market and sell properties and plan how they want to rebuild.

If there are foreclosed homes in your neighborhood, you can do more than just wait until things turn around financially. It'll not only help your community, but it'll also benefit you as a homeowner.

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