Second-Largest New England City Seeks Foreclosure Moratorium

City officials in Worcester, Massachusetts have asked state lawmakers to give them immediate local authority to halt subprime foreclosures for six months, limit evictions and force a judicial review of foreclosures. State lawmakers are already considering a bill that would establish a 180-day moratorium throughout Massachusetts, but city officials say that conditions in New England’s second largest city simply can’t wait, according to a story published Monday in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. The city of 175,898, according to a 2006 U.S. Census estimate, saw 54 foreclosures in May; apparently, that’s enough to worry city officials. Worcester City Council members last week approved three separate petitions covering proposed housing ordinances. The proposed ordinances would provide for a local foreclosure moratorium, as well as forcing a “just cause” standard for evictions that would limit a bank’s authority to evict in cases where the tenant has been paying rent to a former homeowner. A third ordinance would provide troubled borrowers a judicial review channel to argue that they had been victimized by unfair and deceptive lending practices, the Telegram & Gazette said. Massachusetts legislators must approve the petitions, which are generally approved as a matter of course, the Telegram & Gazette reported. While some state-level and federal housing bills have been taking time to pass, numerous city and local governments have been pursuing foreclosure moratoriums and moving to limit a bank’s authority to evict tenants as they seek to deal with an increasing flood of bad loans and vacant homes that threaten the stability of key neighborhoods. “The national housing mess is being played out locally, as is the case with all real estate,” said one source, a banking executive that asked not to be identified by name. “Most don’t appreciate just how complex the servicing environment has become, with various local ordinances in place throughout the country.” Most local ordinances address the management of vacant property and resale of bank-owned real estate, he said; but an increasing number of cities are doing what they can to affect the foreclosure process, which they see as “the feeder” for their vacant property woes. As for Worcester, the city’s housing director said he hoped that the proposed ordinances would generate some action from state-level lawmakers. Massachusett’s current legislative session ends in July; if the current foreclosure bill is not passed before then, it would wait until January for consideration.

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