Foreclosure lawsuits rose slightly last year in Summit County, reversing a two-year decline.
There were 3,786 mortgage and tax foreclosure suits filed, compared with 3,378 the previous year.
“The foreclosure problem is here to stay for a while,” said Michael Mancari, assistant director for foreclosure prevention at the Mustard Seed Development Center in Akron. “For the next several years, we’re going to deal with and struggle with the foreclosure rate here in Ohio.”
The local increase was no surprise. Industry experts had predicted last year that the lawsuits would grow as homeowners continue to struggle with paying their bills and lenders addressed a backlog of unpaid mortgages.
Steve Baughman, a housing specialist with the Fair Housing Contact Service in Akron, said the major reasons that people end up in foreclosure remain the same: job loss, medical issues, and divorce or separation.
In the last five years, more than 19,470 foreclosure lawsuits have been filed in the county and nearly 10,000 properties have been sold at sheriff’s sales or private auctions.
Local foreclosure suits peaked at 4,548 in 2006.
Lawsuits don’t always lead to someone losing a home, but are a strong indicator of economic and housing troubles in a community.
Last year, 1,811 properties sold for $129 million at sheriff’s sales or private auctions, compared with 1,841 and $132 million the previous year.
“It’s not just about somebody losing their house,” Mancari said. “It’s about how this affects communities. The problem is eroding neighborhoods and communities.”
He and others urged struggling homeowners to reach out for help early. Financial assistance and counseling are available, they said.
Summit County will sponsor four foreclosure clinics this year. They will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 28, May 9, Aug. 15 and Oct. 24 at the Veterans Service Commission office on East Waterloo Road in Akron.
Although the lawsuits rose a bit last year, county Office of Consumer Affairs Director Cynthia Sich remained positive.
“We’re doing OK. Not great,” she said. “We could be worse, which is something to always keep in mind.
“Foreclosures are always going to be with us,” she added. “The question is the number, and we’re still a good 1,000 too many.”
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com.