GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM)- A coalition of community leaders met Wednesday to talk about the threat of foreclosed properties in Kent County.
The group, Foreclosure Response, found that the number of foreclosures are down slightly for 2009 but that the area is still in crisis.
From January of 2004 to June of this year, the number of foreclosed homes in Grand Rapids shot up to more than 12% in Kent County, but dropped slightly this year.
To counter the numbers, a group within the coalition, Lighthouse Communities finds foreclosed homes and "flips" them; completely revamping vacant shells to well furnished affordable housing.
"By focusing on the family thats been foreclosed on, not only can you help that family, you also send the benefit to the rest of the neighborhood," said Lighthouse President Darel Ross. "Once foreclosure hits, it's way bigger than the family it's impacting. If your neighbor gets foreclosed on, all of a sudden, your housing value is down 20 percent."
The foreclosure response coalition says while foreclosures are down, the crisis has shifted and it may be harder to solve.
"It's now moved into decreasing market values and unemployment," Ross said. "Predatory lending is easy to legislate, but unemployment and housing value declines are bigger problems."
Lighthouse organizers said they're now going the extra mile.
If a homeowner has been foreclosed on, they'll buy the house from the bank and lease it back to the homeowner until they can find a job or buy back the home.
Lighthouse is part of a program with the city and Kent County, authorized to use $12 million in stimulus money for revitalizing neighborhoods.
By Steve Patterson