Foreclosures in Ohio dropped last year to their fewest since 2000, but the state’s foreclosure rate remains high compared with the rest of the country.
In Ohio, 35,169 homes were foreclosed on in 2017, seventh-most in the nation. That’s according to a report that the left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio released this month tracking foreclosure trends in each county in the state, and data from ATTOM Data Solutions, which tracks properties all over the country.
Foreclosures remain higher than they should be, said Amy Hanauer, Policy Matters Ohio’s executive director.
“A lot of families are losing their homes,” Hanauer said. “This is still a problem.”
Bertha Howard, 57, lived in a house in the Driving Park neighborhood with her mother for 27 years. When her mother died, Howard inherited the house. Then she got laid off from nearby Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
“No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make the payments,” Howard said.
Unable to keep up with the property taxes, she saw the house enter foreclosure. Howard decided to “just let it go” and is living with her sister.
“This thing drove me crazy for a long time. I worried about it all the time,” Howard said.
Ohioans worried even more a decade ago — at the height of the Great Recession’s housing crisis, when foreclosures in the state totaled almost 90,000. Although the rate has fallen since then, it remains more than twice as high as it was in the 1990s.
From January to June of this year, 19,000 homes have either started the foreclosure process or been foreclosed on in Ohio, according to Daren Blomquist, spokesman for ATTOM.
That number is down 14 percent from the same period in 2017 and down 72 percent from the first six months of 2008, during the recession.
“Because of fundamental economic issues, you have higher foreclosure rates (in Ohio) than elsewhere in the country,” Blomquist said.
Those issues include population loss, unemployment and bad loans from before the housing crisis and recession.
Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, said the problem now is the high cost of rent because more people are deciding not to buy a home. He said foreclosures push people into the rental market, and that has driven up rental costs.
Franklin County’s homeownership rate is 53 percent, one of the lowest in the state, Faith said. And although jobs are being created, many of them have low pay.
And those problems — foreclosures, low-paying jobs and high rent — affect all parts of the state.
“We should care about predatory lending in all parts of the state, not just big cities or in the countryside,” Hanauer said.
Guernsey and Hocking counties in eastern and southeastern Ohio have the highest foreclosure filing rates: 7.57 and 5.86 per 1,000 people, respectively. In Franklin County, there were 2.66 foreclosure filings per 1,000 people.
Guernsey County jumped from 36th in the state in 2016 to first in foreclosures per capita in 2017. Hocking made a significant jump, too, from 66th to second.
One reason for Guernsey County’s jump, said Mike Holmes, civil clerk for Sheriff Jeffrey Paden, is that its prosecuting attorney has been “cracking down” on people who are delinquent on taxes.
The study by Policy Matters Ohio counts all mortgage foreclosure filings and tax foreclosure filings when calculating each county’s rank.
Blomquist said that overall, the number of foreclosures in Ohio has become a positive story.
“The foreclosure crisis is in the rearview mirror, and we are falling into a ‘normal’ — if you can call it that — rate of foreclosures,” he said. “You’re never going to see foreclosures go away.”
Faith is not so optimistic.
“The drop in foreclosures was to be expected; the reckless lending stopped because it blew up in their faces,” he said of mortgage brokers and banks. “We’re still seeing harm caused.”