The Foreclosure Blues: Poor Neighborhoods Still Hardest Hit - Study

by Elizabeth Hays

The number of homeowners unable to afford their mortgages is rising in Queens, though foreclosure rates are leveling off or declining in other boroughs, a new study shows.

Despite the dip, foreclosures remain highest in the Bronx and Brooklyn - and low-income neighborhoods such as Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights in Brooklyn and Highbridge and University Heights in the Bronx are still hit the hardest, according to New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.

“It may have dropped slightly, but it’s still high,” said Gregory Jost of the University Neighborhood Housing Program, which works on foreclosure prevention in the northwest Bronx. “Foreclosures are definitely still a problem.”

In Queens, the number of foreclosure notices rose in 2004 over 2003 in all types of home categories tracked by the center - from single-family dwellings to apartment buildings with five or more units.

In Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx, rates dipped slightly after steadily rising since 1999.

The report did not include statistics for Staten Island.

“The question would be, are we beginning to see more predatory lending going into Queens?” said Furman Center director Vicki Been. “We’ve seen rampant predatory lending in Brooklyn.”

Predatory lending forces vulnerable homeowners into foreclosure by targeting them with risky and expensive loans.

There were 782 notices of foreclosure actions filed for single-family homes in Jamaica and Hollis in 2004 - the highest number in the city.

For two-to-four-family homes, the highest number went to Bedford-Stuyvesant, with 429.

Bushwick had the most large apartment buildings, with 70.

Rick Echevarria of the Bushwick Housing Independence Project said that when large multifamily buildings go into foreclosure, many families suffer.

“About 70% of our work on evictions comes from buildings that have been in foreclosure,” said Echevarria.

His group has been working with tenants at a six-family unit on Bleecker St. that went into foreclosure 18 months ago.

The building was finally bought by a new owner last month, but many of the rent-stabilized tenants fear they will be forced out by the new owner, who has sent them letters charging they owe thousands of dollars in back rent.

“We don’t have anywhere else to go,” said tenant Claudia Pena.

Gloria Horsford of Elite Real Estate Advisors, which bought the building, dismissed the allegations and insisted the company is trying to work with the new owners.