Augusta Has Second-Highest Rate, Receives Foreclosure Funds- By: Leticia Carvalho
Nearly seven percent of houses in Augusta have been foreclosed, according to data compiled by the federal Department of Housing & Urban Development. As of the first week of November, 142 homes have been foreclosed and 95 of them are located in an area in south Augusta bounded by Spirit Creek and Gordon Highway.
According to Sammie Sias, president of the Richmond County Neighborhood Alliance, the area attracted a lot of first-time homebuyers, most of them young families who paid their amortizations on two incomes. He also said that among the foreclosed homes were units previously owned by military personnel who could not sell them when they were reassigned.
Because of the city’s high foreclosure rate, which is second only to Clayton County’s nearly ten percent foreclosure rate and above the state’s 5.2 percent, Augusta automatically qualified for federal funds granted under the housing rehabilitation and economic recovery law passed by President Bush’s administration last summer.
Georgia’s Assistant Housing Director Hawthorne Welcher Jr. said that eligible homeowners could get a second-mortgage loan up to the amount of $20,000 from the almost $2.5 million allocated for Augusta. Qualified developers can also get loans from the same funding to acquire and rehabilitate foreclosed properties and then rent them out to low-income families. For eligible homeowners, ten percent of the second-mortgage loans provided could be wiped off each year for ten years. The loans would be used to cover gaps between the cost of a house and the amount of loan extended by a bank.
The other Georgia cities which automatically qualified for the federal funding were Columbus, which received a little over $3 million, and the city of Savannah, which received $2 million. Columbus has a 6.3-percent foreclosure rate while Savannah has six percent.
Based on information compiled by Augusta’s Department of Housing & Community Development, the rapid-growth neighborhoods had high number of abandoned, deteriorating houses left by first-time homeowners who were living on tight budgets.
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Leticia Carvalho has been educated in the finer points of the foreclosure market over 5 years.