ST. PETERS, Mo. - Officials from the St. Louis Fed recently joined state and county leaders to discuss the current foreclosure situation in St. Charles County and across the state; how crucial the stabilization of the housing market is to economic recovery, and how to best assist beleaguered borrowers.
The event, which was held on November 18, was co-sponsored by the St. Louis Fed, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and the University of Missouri Extension, and other local partners by the St. Charles County Government at the Old Hickory Golf Club in St. Peters.
Guest speakers included Chris Koster, Missouri Attorney General; Bill Emmons, St. Louis Fed assistant vice president and economist; Scott Shipman, St. Charles County Assessor; and Todd Swanstrom, Des Lee professor of community collaboration and public policy administration at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
In welcoming remarks at the discussion, Allen North, vice president of Consumer Affairs with the St. Louis Fed, noted that the Federal Reserve recognizes the gravity of the foreclosure situation, both in terms of the downward pressure that foreclosures place on home prices and the impact on the consumers who suffer. “The consumer perspective cannot be forgotten,” North said.
Koster addressed how his and other Attorneys General offices across the country are investigating the practices of mortgage lenders in the wake of reports earlier this fall that lenders had been “robo-signing" thousands of foreclosure documents. “When you consider the cavalier manner in which borrowers have been treated by the mortgage servicing organizations, combined with the recent robo-signing revelations, it is easy to understand how confidence has been shaken in the housing market and the financial markets,” Koster said.
While Koster said he does not believe the U.S. should have a moratorium on foreclosures while the issue is being investigated, the Attorney General’s office is “keenly interested in preventing preventable foreclosures,” he added.
Missouri homeowners, in particular, need to have access to the most accurate information available regarding who owns their loans, since Missouri is a non-judicial state, Koster said, noting the Missouri AG’s office has developed a new web site to help homeowners navigate this process.
Emmons noted in his presentation that while there have been several waves of foreclosures across the state, with the first wave hitting Missouri in 2006, and the second in 2008, it was the third wave in 2010 that has hit St. Charles County the hardest.
“If you look by zip code, the stress can be found in all parts of the state,” Emmons said. “Even St. Charles County is going through some fairly significant distress.” He explained that the current situation is being caused mostly by the problem of negative equity.
“Negative equity is the poisonous aspect causing foreclosures to be so high,” Emmons said. “The combination of a very weak economy, plus high unemployment and very weak or falling house prices means the problem is not going away; in fact, it will probably get worse."
Additional panel participants included Jennifer George, director of policy research and development for St. Charles County; Linda Ingram, director of foreclosure intervention services at Beyond Housing; JD De Shaies, foreclosure mitigation counselor for North East Community Action Corporation; Bruce Evans, director of community development for the City of St. Charles; Dottie Kastigar, community development program coordinator for the Community Council of St. Charles County, and Wes Kozeny, Kozeny & McCubbin, L.C.