Bridgeport foreclosures stay stubbornly high
Published 2:58 pm, Thursday, February 16, 2017
BRIDGEPORT — Since the start of 2017, Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust has seen an uptick in the number of people walking through its doors looking for help.
The nonprofit provides foreclosure prevention services in a city where year after year foreclosures occur in higher numbers than elsewhere in the state. In 2016, the Park City reported 261 foreclosure deed filings, which transfer the deed to a lender after a mortgage is foreclosed, slightly higher than its 2015 total of 246 filings.
The number is down from a high of 437 in 2014. “But we are still the highest in the state,” said Doris Latorre, BNT’s director of foreclosure prevention.
According to the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority data, no other city or town in the state passed the 200 mark for foreclosures in 2016, with Meriden closest at 195. Communities around Bridgeport, including Stratford, Trumbull and Fairfield, had fewer than than 25 foreclosures each.
Fairfield County’s second largest city, Stamford, recorded only 15 for the year, while Norwalk reported 76 and Danbury 58.
Loraine Martinez, staff attorney in the foreclosure prevention department at the CT Fair Housing Center, said problems are often amplified in Bridgeport because of its density and high taxes. She said cited a high rate of condominium associations pursuing foreclosure of a member unit in the city.
Martinez said she has also seen the Water Pollution Control Authority in Bridgeport is more aggressive than in other cities in seeking foreclosure actions against people who don’t pay sewer bills. “I’ve met with people who owed the WPCA as low as $1,000,” she said, adding that by the time the legal process moves forward that number is often much higher. “In Hartford and other cities, like Waterbury, too, I just don’t see WPCA foreclosures for such insignificant amounts of money like I do with the WPCA in Bridgeport.”
City officials said each year the city pursues a foreclosure action against roughly 1 percent of WPCA customers who owe more than $500. The topic came up before the Bridgeport City Council last year when a councilwoman submitted resolutions seeking to encourage the WPCA to seek mediation before liens or foreclosure.
The bills did not move forward.
Gail Robinson, a William Raveis real estate agent who specializes in Bridgeport’s Black Rock market, said she only saw two foreclosures and four short sales in the neighborhood last year. “We’ve been pretty level for four years now,” she said.
Robinson attributed the low numbers in the waterfront neighborhood to the fact that the prerecession rush of homebuying in the city mostly affected more affordable neighborhoods. Black Rock’s median sale price in 2016 was $257,500, while Bridgeport overall logged a $152,000 median sale price.
“That was the shame of subprime,” she said. “It gave the illusion of the American dream. But at the first bump in the road they lost it.”
The fact that home prices dropped post-recession has also affected homeowners, Latorre said. “Most of the folks we see in trouble in Bridgeport, their houses are upside down — they owe more than it is worth,” she said.
Rowena White, spokeswoman for the city of Bridgeport, said the city has tried to do its part to prevent foreclosures by helping fund BNT’s efforts and aiding its work. The city also partners with the organization for a first-time homebuyer down-payment assistance program.
“We’re all about the prevention, the counseling and the workshops,” White said.
Latorre noted that BNT has tried to keep up with the demand for free assistance and introduce clients to federal and state programs that help keep people in their homes.
“There are still programs,” she said. “We are pretty successful in trying to find a positive resolution but it’s still a lengthy process. But I think people should know help is free.”