Citizen Staff Writer
COUNTY, CITY FEDERAL EFFORTS
Midvale Park is being targeted by Pima County officials in an effort to combat the negative effects of foreclosures in the neighborhood.
The program, funded by the Pima County Industrial Development Authority using money from the Southern Arizona Land Trust, involves buying foreclosed homes and turning them into low-cost rentals.
Foreclosures continue to pile up in the metropolitan area, with a record number of filings in March. More than 1,100 foreclosure filings were reported during the month, with filings from March 30 and 31 still to be counted, officials said. That follows 1,007 filings in February, which was the monthly record, officials said.
There were more than 9,000 foreclosure filings in Pima County in 2008 and more than 4,500 in 2007, according to Realty Trac, an online foreclosure listing service.
The authority’s hope is that the rentals will help keep neighborhoods stable and provide shelter for people who have been forced out of their homes by foreclosure.
“What we’re trying to do is come a full circle on foreclosures,” said John Glaze, chief operating officer for Family Housing Resources. “I think that is a great thing.”
The organization, a statewide nonprofit focused on affordable housing, is managing a dozen foreclosed properties for the county’s development authority.
The authority’s project is the first of three similar programs coming to the metropolitan area. The city and county are both receiving money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to start similar efforts both in the city and unincorporated areas.
The main purpose behind the federal funding is to keep homes from sitting empty on neighborhood streets.
HUD is using data provided by the U.S. Postal Service that shows when a residence has been vacant for 90 days or longer.
“You can see neighborhoods where there is vacant housing that is unmaintained,” said Gary Bachman, a senior housing planner with the county. “Unkept yards and vandalism can really bring down a neighborhood in both the appearance and the morale.”
Betty Villegas, a program manager with the county’s Department of Community and Economic Development, said she is puzzled by the vacancies.
“Right now we really don’t where people that have been foreclosed on are going,” she said. “They’re moving somewhere and the rental vacancy rate is so high that you know that they’re not getting new apartments. Are they going to live with relatives? Do they think they can’t rent because of their credit?
“There’s a lot of unknowns right now but we feel that even if we buy 20 houses, even if we buy 30 houses, it is an impact,” Villegas said. “It is an impact to families and neighborhoods.”
Bachman and Villegas both helped the Pima County Industrial Authority with its program to purchase and fix up foreclosed homes.
“One of the things that we saw right away is that when they started cleaning up the weeds and even fixing up the facade of the house, the other neighbors started fixing up their own houses again,” Villegas said. “It’s really a trickle-down effect. When you start fixing up one house the homeowners start feeling better about their neighborhood.”
The authority spent $1.5 million to buy and repair 12 homes in the Midvale area, said Steven Russo, legal counsel for the authority.
County officials say that the Southwest Side neighborhood has been hit hard with foreclosures over the past year as the subprime mortgage crisis mounted.
Russo said rental proceeds will go back into the Southern Arizona Land Trust, which is funded primarily by general funds from the county.
Resources from the county-run land trust are dedicated to supporting affordable housing.
Nearly half of the homes will be ready for tenants in the next few weeks, Glaze said.
One home is ready and a family of five will move in this week, he said.
The Romero family will be the first to take advantage of these types of programs here.
Abel Romero, 33, is moving his family into a home in Midvale Park this week.
He said he was given 40 days to move out of his South Side home after it was foreclosed on earlier this year.
“Trying to get into a new house is very, very costly and we were fortunate,” Romero said. “This program allows us to move into a house at a very, very low rent.”
He’s paying about $700 a month for a three-bedroom house.
Romero said his financial troubles started six months ago when he was laid off from his job as a repairs processor in the avionics industry.
“I got laid off from my job and our payments were just too high,” Romero said. “We just fell behind on our payments.
“You try to make your payments but when you’re already behind, all you’re paying on is late charges,” he said. “We just got way too far behind and we have other bills that we have to pay. It was just a vicious cycle and we had no choice, pretty much.”
Romero said he also had to file for bankruptcy. His mother-in-law told him about the program managed by Family Housing Resources.
“It’s mainly something that’s going to get us into a home and allow us to establish ourselves again and get back on our feet,” he said. “Hopefully down the line, once we get back on our feet, we’ll be able to buy another home.”
City, county turning foreclosed homes into rentals to help stabilize neighborhoods
How to apply
To apply for a Pima County Industrial Development Authority program, contact Greg Flatt of FHR Residential at 777-3402.