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Housing Market Continues Downward Trend In 2011

By Paul Tuthill


Springfield, MA – A new report shows the housing market still stuck in the doldrums in western Massachusetts. Officials say foreclosures and problem mortgages remain a significant drag on the economy. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

The value of all real estate transactions in the greater Springfield area in 2011 fell by 8 percent from the year before, according to an annual report issued Wednesday by the Hampden County Register of Deeds, Donald Ashe. Last year continued a downward streak that began with the collapse of the housing market, and the economy as a whole in 2008.
Ashe said all 17 of the categories his office tracks using the documents filed to record real estate transactions were down from the previous year.
The only positive statistic was a 22 percent decline in foreclosures, but Ashe said it appeared to be just a temporary lull in lenders taking homes from people who can't make mortgage payments.
There were 851 foreclosures recorded in Hampden County in 2011. There were a thousand 86 in 2010.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley says mortgage related problems are now the number one consumer complaint her office receives, surpassing problems with automobile dealers for the first time. The number of complaints having to do with mortgages and foreclosures filed with the consumer affairs division of the attorney general's office quadrupled over the last 2 years to reach nearly a thousand complaints in 2011.
Coakley, in a statement Wednesday, said resolving the foreclosure crisis is the single most important thing that can be done to restore the economy. Coakley last month dropped out of multi state negogiations with the mortgage industry and sued the nations five largest banks. She's questioned if a possible 25 billion dollar national settlement with the banks would be enough to help Massachusetts homeowners.
Massachusetts has received nearly 50 million dollars from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development under a program intended to mitigate the impact of foreclosures on neighborhoods. Peter Gagliardi of HAP Housing, a non-profit agency that uses the funds from HUD to fix up vacant houses and put the buildings back on the market says there are signs the program is working.
Springfield, which had the highest foreclosure rate of any city in Massachusetts a couple of years ago, has received over 3 piont 7 million dollars in federal funding for neighborhood stabilization efforts.