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Mortgage mess spreading across state

HousingLink, a Minnesota-based non-profit, which has counted foreclosures in all 87 counties of Minnesota, reported that 6,388 foreclosures occurred in Minnesota during the first quarter of 2008.

According to the HousingLink report, the number of foreclosures in Hubbard County increased from 35 in 2006 to 63 in 2007 with 29 projected in 2008.

In most counties, Minnesota's foreclosure crisis is expected to get much worse before it gets any better, concerned leaders and housing officials heard at a Greater Minnesota Foreclosure Crisis Summit recently in St. Cloud.

Nearly 200 community leaders from Greater Minnesota discussed the devastating community-wide impacts of the situation and explored solutions.

The Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and the Minnesota Home Ownership Center convened the summit.

"Rising foreclosure rates in both small and large communities in Greater Minnesota is a major concern of local leaders and housing officials around the state," said Warren Hanson, president of Greater Minnesota Housing Fund.

"The problems created in the wake of the mortgage mess vary across the state from virtual ghost towns in new subdivisions where development recently boomed, to core neighborhoods in cities and towns where concentrations of foreclosed homes have resulted in crippling neighborhood decline and disinvestment," said Hanson.

Summit attendees also discussed foreclosure trends and projections based on the newly released "Foreclosures in Minnesota: A Report Based on County Sheriff's Sale Data."

The recently updated study quantifies the number of actual sheriffs' sales of foreclosed properties county by county in Minnesota since 2005.

Hubbard County ranked 41st among Minnesota's 87 counties based on the number of foreclosures in 2007. Based on numbers from the same year, Cass County at 30th and Beltrami County at 33rd ranked higher; Becker County at 45th and Wadena County at 59th ranked lower.

The report also analyzed mortgage foreclosures per 100 households. The numbers show mortgage foreclosures in Hubbard County at less than one for every 100 households (at a rate of .80) for 2007.

Neighboring counties' rates for 2007 were all lower. Becker's rate was .39, Beltrami's was .50, Cass's was .77 and Wadena's was .45.

The study, which covered all counties in Minnesota, was commissioned by Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, Family Housing Fund, the Minnesota Homeownership Center and the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, and prepared by HousingLink.

Key findings of the updated foreclosure report include:

-- Over 28,000 Minnesotans will lose their homes to foreclosure in 2008. In 2005 there were 6,466 foreclosures statewide.

-- One mortgage foreclosed for every 54 households in Minnesota between 2005 and 2007.

-- Nationally reported foreclosure figures released by RealtyTrac, a national data source, continue to significantly under-report the number of foreclosures in Minnesota (6,388 actual foreclosures in Minnesota during the first quarter 2008 vs. 4,231 reported by RealtyTrac).

-- All Minnesota counties are now tracking foreclosure counts as of 2008. In 2005, only 74 of 87 counties tracked foreclosure data. Hubbard County was among those which did not track data.

Housing Link's complete report is available online at

The top 10 Greater Minnesota counties with the highest number of foreclosures in 2007 (in order from highest to lowest) were Wright, Sherburne, Stearns, St. Louis, Olmsted, Isanti, Chisago, Rice, Crow Wing and Mille Lacs.

Attendees at the Foreclosure Crisis Summit also learned of a variety of efforts taking shape to help families and communities address foreclosure impacts. Homeowners who have fallen behind, or are at risk of not being able to make their mortgage payments, are being encouraged to reach out early to receive important foreclosure prevention counseling and resources.

Almost $5 million in new federal, state, local and private funding has been provided in 2008 to more than triple the number of counselors at nonprofit agencies available to provide free, unbiased advice and foreclosure prevention action plans to at-risk homeowners.

Julie Gugin, executive director of the nonprofit Minnesota Home Ownership Center, noted that homeowners facing the prospect of foreclosure may contact the center at 866-462-6466 or online at for referrals to foreclosure prevention services in their community.