Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"The sad fact"

If you look at Mayor Palmer's personal public relations vehicle, the website for the city of Trenton, you'll see he's supposedly taking an "aggressive team approach" to help Trenton residents keep their homes, in these tough economic times, when so many people are facing foreclosure.

Earlier this year, the mayor said of the mortgage crisis, "Throughout the month of June, and going forward, we will show that in OUR city, we can make a difference, with volunteers willing to help." The Trenton Mortgage Mitigation Task Force was formed to let people know that information and counseling are available for those who are getting behind in their mortgage payments. For more information, by the way, you can call 609-341-4714 or 1-800-656-9637.

According to Susan Jouard, the communications and public affairs specialist for NeighborWorks America, a national nonprofit organization created by Congress to provide financial support, technical assistance, and training for community-based revitalization efforts, "New Jersey is 14th is the nation in foreclosures — one in 37 New Jersey homeowners will face foreclosure."

Some other interesting facts about foreclosure, locally:
New Jersey's homeownership rate is approximately 65%
Mercer County's homeownership rate is more than 67%
Trenton's homeownership rate is 45%
(all numbers are from 2006, source: US Census Bureau)

I was looking at Mercer County's sheriff's foreclosure list for 9/3 through 11/5/2008, and there are 218 properties in the county in foreclosure at this time. More than half of them — 135 — are in Trenton. And a few of them list the property owner as the City of Trenton.

I'm running on very little sleep these last few weeks, and I've never been terribly good at math, but it sure seems like Trenton's foreclosure rates are very high, given that homeownership here is lower than the rest of the county, and since the population here is not half of that of the rest of the county.

Back in May, the mayor said, "We need to stop the ripple effects of this foreclosure disgrace ... and that means on every front, together, we have to fight for solutions.”

Certainly this problem is not all Mayor Palmer's fault. But he certainly isn't qualified to lead in tough economic times, that's for sure. His words are hollow. Under his leadership, business and educational opportunities have bailed out of Trenton. Even my college alma mater ditched the "Trenton" in its name during Palmer's tenure, erasing all association with the city. Coincidence? I'm not so sure. And he's stacked this place full of low income housing, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and crime, and encourages good people and businesses to leave, making it even more difficult for people to work and pay their bills. And subsequently, they lose their homes.

"The sad fact is," the Mayor said, "too many people are paralyzed with fear on this issue. That's why we are stepping up this information campaign."

The REAL sad fact is that the Mayor just doesn't care.

1 comment:

Dan Dodson said...

The correct math would be to figure out the rate of foreclosure for Trenton vs. rest of NJ. Let's assume it is higher for Trenton which is a huge assumption.

There are two drivers to the current problem, one of which affects Trenton and the other one, not so much.

First, the the one that doesn't. In the early part of the decade home prices were bid up due to the ripple effect of the tech bubble. That momentum induced the mortgage industry to relax lending criteria in the face of a rising market. That ponzi scheme eventually collapsed.

At roughly the same time and especially in 2003, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loosened their lending criteria for affordable housing programs. They, along with NJHMFA, poured money into places like Trenton at sub-prime rates, 100% financing and balloon loans. They were bottom fishing, but again, as long as housing prices went up, no problem.

The only thing the Mayor could have done to save Trenton people from themselves would have been to revitalize the city so housing prices continued to go up in the face of a national decline.

That remains the only thing Mayor Palmer can do to help, it's just that he doesn't know how. Therefore he's blowing smoke up the ass of Trentonians with his tough talk.