In the months before robo-signing scandals threw much of the foreclosure system into distress, lenders had hit stride in South Florida's civil courts, reclaiming homes at an increasingly fast pace, a report released Thursday by real estate research firm RealtyTrac shows.

In the third quarter of 2010, South Florida led the nation with the highest number of foreclosure filings among large metropolitan areas, with more than 59,064 homes in distress. That's a 24 percent increase from the previous quarter, and a 9 percent jump from the same period in 2009. Led by a large increase in bank reposessions, the region's foreclosure rate ranked 7th nationwide, with one out of every 41 homes in some stage of foreclosure.

``In contrast to what we're seeing happening in the other foreclosure hotspots in Nevada, California and Arizona, many of the metro areas in Florida are actually posting increases from a year ago,'' said Daren Blomquist, spokesman for Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac, a market research firm. ``Whereas the foreclosure activity in other areas is going down.''

RealtyTrac's South Florida analysis includes Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Its foreclosure report for October, to be released next month, will reflect the region's foreclosure environment in the weeks after banks like GMAC and Bank of America halted their foreclosure processes to review faulty paperwork.

A handful of major lenders halted their foreclosure processes last month, after employees confessed to signing thousands of court documents, without reviewing the details of the cases.

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Category: News
Oct, 11 2010

Maritza's Story

Millions of people across our country are struggling through these hard economic times in one of the worst positions: unemployed. Many are just now learning to navigate the system set up to protect us and our neighbors in hard times. Right now, that unemployment system is broken in Florida.

By merely modernizing our unemployment compensation system, the state of Florida will be eligible for $440 million in stimulus funds to create jobs much-needed by our communities. Reforming Florida’s unemployment compensation system may be our only chance to help.

Maritza Moreno, a long-time resident of Allapatah and single mother, has been unemployed for a year and a half. In this time, she has had to support her three children and parents -- both of whom are also unemployed -- with $634 per month in child support payments and $258 per month in disability payments (one of her children is disabled).

She failed to qualify for unemployment compensation because she had only been employed for a month and a half before she was let go.

Her father -- laid off two years ago after working for the same company for 26 years -- has exhausted all unemployment extensions offered to him. He has yet to find permanent work.

Even with this enormous financial burden, the Moreno family has shown a resiliency and determination to make ends meet. Maritza, who has experience in fields ranging from secretarial work to mortuary science, looks for permanent employment on a daily basis. In order to generate supplemental income to pay her bills, she makes roughly $50-60 a week by selling home-made Puerto Rican food down her street. Her mother accompanies her to sell home-made crafts, but without much luck: with unemployment so high in their community, not many people have income to spare for anything but the bare necessities. Her father wakes up at 4am every morning in efforts to get a day’s work as a laborer, but the availability of work is often a gamble.

Although hopeful, Maritza is struggling to make ends meet to support her family, and without any state assistance, the Moreno family is suffocating under the weight of their expenses: “It’s been a huge struggle for our family... [my parents] have no money or any way to get around. I have had to help not only with my own bills, but have also taken care of all of their bills and personal necessities.”

According to the August 2010 employment figures released by Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation, our statewide unemployment rate is currently at 11.7%. While this may show a slight improvement over the course of the past few months, it remains evident that Florida residents are still struggling to find a means to support themselves. Contrary to the state-wide [albeit minimal] improvement, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has revealed that, in Miami-Dade County alone, the unemployment rate has instead climbed to 12.7% -- painting a bleak portrait for the unemployed residents of Miami struggling to find work.

Our fledgling unemployment compensation system is desperately in need of reform, and the Moreno family -- and families across the state of Florida -- are grim reminders of its devastating shortfalls. Maritza’s story is only one of many, and her message is one of unity and perseverance: “We need to get together as a community and fight for our rights as Americans.” Let’s take action now.

Category: News