Council mulls foreclosure education

Posted 11/12/09

Centennial has a foreclosure rate below 1 percent, but the rate is trending higher — and the city has been considering ways to make sure it …

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Council mulls foreclosure education


Centennial has a foreclosure rate below 1 percent, but the rate is trending higher — and the city has been considering ways to make sure it continues to have one of the lowest foreclosure rates in the metro area.

The question being raised: What is the appropriate role for a city government when it comes to helping its citizens keep their homes?

At the city council meeting on Nov. 3, Derek Stertz, a technician with Centennial’s planning and development department, argued that forestalling foreclosures does far more than help the homeowners in question.

“City council directed us to maintain property values and this is definitely a property-value issue,” he said.

According to Stertz, a string of foreclosures in a neighborhood can increase crime and lead to code violations and unpaid taxes, among a litany of other problems for the city.

“We can all intrinsically understand the devastation of losing a home. What’s not so intuitive is how cities incur costs and neighborhoods incur costs when foreclosure happens,” Stertz said. “Research has shown it happens oftentimes in clusters, almost like a ripple effect from an epicenter.”

Stertz said the best thing a city can do to forestall the resulting problems is to prevent foreclosures before they happen. He suggested a two-prong approach for educating Centennial residents about avoiding foreclosure.

First, Stertz suggested that Centennial provide resources about foreclosure in such venues as the city’s newsletter and Web site. The city could also establish a foreclosure hotline and discuss the subject at citizens’ district meetings.

Second, he said the city should canvass door-to-door in targeted neighborhoods that may be experiencing foreclosure’s “ripple effect.”

“It actually develops a human connection with a distressed homeowner who may be hopeless,” Stertz said. “… You’re not spreading resources over a large area. You’re looking at a couple hundred homes here, 50 homes here, maybe 25 homes there.”

The effort would be relatively low cost, according to Stertz, because it would be concentrated in several clustered areas.

But some councilmembers questioned whether such a campaign would be an appropriate action for the city government.

District 4’s Todd Miller thought the effort should be modest, perhaps limited to placing links on the Centennial’s Web site.

“My concern is it’s just redundancy. I mean, there are so many other sources,” he said.

District 1’s Rick Dindinger was particularly opposed to the expense of the canvassing idea.

“There are experts in finance issues and I hope the city, at least on my watch, never becomes that expert,” he said.

But District 3 Councilmember Rebecca McClellan was supportive of the city taking a more proactive approach to slowing foreclosures, especially as middle-income residents are becoming more affected.

“I do see this as a property-value issue,” she said, “particularly if that trend is going to start causing foreclosure prices to hit borrowers that look a little bit more like our neighbors.”


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