LI foreclosure filings at twice state rate

A foreclosure sign sits atop a for sale A foreclosure sign sits atop a for sale sign in front of a single-family home tops the for sale sign in Denver in this file photo. (April 4, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

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Long Island homeowners received foreclosure-related filings at twice the statewide rate in the three years following the 2007 collapse of the subprime lending market, the state comptroller reported Tuesday.

About 36.5 homeowners per 1,000 households here were sent to foreclosure courts, according to figures showing the cumulative impact from 2008 to 2010. Two-thirds of the 166 communities on Long Island outpaced the state rate of 18 homeowners per 1,000 households, data show.

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In those three years, lenders took back 3,477 homes in Nassau and Suffolk, counties usually among the state's top five in foreclosure activity.

The foreclosure problem is worse downstate because lenders were especially attracted to the real estate market here, lining up to loan to many who couldn't afford to own, said Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who has been issuing foreclosure reports around the state.

"They were seeing prices were ever-escalating, year over year," he said. "You had a different dynamic with the housing market downstate than you did upstate . . . Upstate didn't necessarily have the bust, because they didn't have the boom."

But also, comparing foreclosure filings against households skews the rate, said Kirsten Keefe, senior attorney at Empire Justice Center, a nonprofit, public interest law firm that has studied the crisis. Households include rentals, she said, and the Island has fewer apartments and more mortgages than much of the state.

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DiNapoli's report shows Long Island fared better than the nationwide filing rate of 62.2 homeowners per 1,000, a figure driven up by a handful of states.

The Island's lower-income areas took the brunt of the crisis year after year, from the number of repossessed properties to the larger share of subprime loans, according to the report, based on data from foreclosure monitor RealtyTrac.

Brentwood had the most homes sent to foreclosure courts -- 1,883 properties -- while Wyandanch had the highest rate of filings, 160 out of every 1,000 households. Such communities were struggling before the crisis, and the fear is that they will still be after much of the Island has healed.

"If all the foreclosures were spread around evenly on Long Island, it would be a lot easier to recover from that," Keefe said. "If all of them are in Central Islip or wherever . . . you think of all the after-effects -- the tax base of that community, extra cops for the community to deal with increased crime, to do code enforcement on these properties, and go after the banks to make sure they're maintaining the properties."

In Wyandanch, where Babylon Town has been planning a major revitalization, Sondra Cochran, head of a local nonprofit, is especially worried about blocks where several homes are vacant.

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Take Booker Avenue, a short block where Cochran has noticed several obviously empty homes. "They have 'for sale' signs or they're boarded," said the executive director of the Wyandanch Community Development Corp., which has counseled 400 homeowners in the past three years. "The grass is growing high. One house has been empty for three years." 

Top Five 

Foreclosure filings per 1,000 households 2008-2010

Wyandanch: 160.4

Roosevelt: 148.2

Brentwood: 144.4

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Mastic Beach: 127.2

Central Islip: 115.7

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