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LEXINGTON PARK, Md. -- Recent data from the state Department of Housing and Community Development show that Lexington Park had a high rate of home foreclosures for the last three months of 2008.
The state foreclosure report for the fourth quarter of 2008 names Lexington Park as a hot spot, but Dennis Nicholson, executive director of the county Housing Authority office, says that St. Mary’s still has not received any federal stimulus funds to combat foreclosures, which he said can lead to more community blight.
Those funds have gone to counties like Prince George’s and Montgomery where the sheer number of foreclosures has reached crisis levels.
“The county (according to) state data, is showing a high rate of foreclosures,” Nicholson told The County Times. “Are they serious? Yes. Are they serious enough to get federal stimulus money? No.”
Currently there are about 900 homes on the county market, some in danger of foreclosure, that have not found buyers, Nicholson said.
“The number isn’t dropping,” he said.
State data shows that St. Mary’s is faring better than the rest of the tri-county region for foreclosures. However, the report showed that .9 percent of foreclosures for the fourth quarter occurred here, which represents an 18 percent increase over the previous quarter.
In contrast, sales of foreclosed property dropped by 67 percent here with just two sales for the last months of 2008.
For the same time period, there were just 10 properties purchased by the lender in the transaction, which represented a 23 percent drop from the previous quarter.
Of all the communities in the county, only Lexington Park was identified as a foreclosure hot spot, according to the report.
Jan Barnes, a local real estate agent with Century 21, said that despite the slow housing market, now was the time to buy properties at much-reduced prices.
“It’s a good time for investors to pick them up,” Barnes said. “And for those people who flip them, it’s good.”
Still, she said, she has seen homes up for sale or foreclosure where owners had sold the kitchen stove, light fixtures and even the heating pumps to help make money, indicating their desperate financial situations.
“They did that just to keep money in their pockets,” Barnes said.
Without federal stimulus dollars filtered through the state, Nicholson said, his office could not assist those facing foreclosure with aid, but he hopes that some state aid funds could come later this summer.
“We won’t be able to be active with our resources until June,” Nicholson said. “We’re maxed out with what we have. We can listen to people’s concerns, but we have very few dollar resources available.”
Those monies would normally go to helping people afford rent for either a house or apartment, make repairs to aging homes or forestall a foreclosure, he said.
Foreclosed, vacant homes mean more stress on the social fabric, Nicholson said, adding that the stress can drain police resources and stigmatize neighborhoods.
“It would deter investment into communities that are in need of homeownership and repair,” he said.
Nicholson said he hoped that funds would come soon, or else the problem would likely fester.
“We’re not that bad, but what’s wrong with getting to it earlier before the patient gets too bad?” he said. “I just wish they would paint with a broader brush with the recovery money.”
Bob Schaller, director of the county’s Department of Economic and Community Development said that there may be some hope on the horizon for people facing foreclosure.
He said that lenders are starting to engage borrowers earlier when they have problems paying their mortgages.
“Lenders are the key to this,” Schaller said. “They’re becoming more forgiving with the situations people are in.”