How Boston's on top of foreclosures

The John Hancock Tower sits in the heart of the Back Bay neighborhood in Boston, Mass.

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Kai Ryssdal: Last year there were 1,215 foreclosed properties in the city of Boston. That's a lot of people losing their homes. But it didn't break local records, as foreclosures in a lot of other places around the country have. From WBUR, Monica Brady-Myerov has more now on how Boston has managed to stay on top of the foreclosure crisis.


MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: The solution to Boston's foreclosure crisis is on Hendry Street.

The street is in the crosshairs of the city's Foreclosure Intervention Team. The quick response program brought in police to deter crime, filled potholes on the street, and cleaned up public spaces. The mayor's housing advisor is Pat Canavan.

PAT CANAVAN: The mayor has directed us to look to where we can eradicate the blight that is caused by these foreclosed properties. So that gets us into a strategy that sometimes seems street by street, but that's how this crisis is working out. It is street by street.

The Dorchester neighborhood has a lot of streets with foreclosures. Hendry Street had four houses boarded up just a year ago. Today, three are being rehabilitated. Canavan walks into a building with three apartments under construction.

CANAVAN: And pretty soon this property and several others will be on the market and we hope to have home buyers living in here again and bringing this neighborhood back to be a decent place to live.

Boston has almost a thousand foreclosures. But that's only half the number in cities the same size, such as Washington, D.C. The reason why Boston is faring better is that the economy hasn't sunk as far as fast here, as in other cities. And Boston's mayor saw the problem coming. Evelyn Friedman heads of the city's Neighborhood Development program.

EVELYN FRIEDMAN: The mayor, he recognized this problem very, very early, and he started all these campaigns that prevented people from getting bad loans in the first place.

But many people did sign bad loans, so the city is also funding programs to save homes from foreclosure. Lillie Searcy heads a nonprofit housing group in Boston.

LILLIE SEARCY: The city of Boston's been extremely proactive helping homeowners to plan in advance. If you know that you are at risk of losing your home, that you spend more time working with the lenders so that they don't lose their home.

Over the past two years, the city has lowered its foreclosure rate by 20 percent. But that still leaves hundreds of homes vacant, boarded up and ripe for vandalism. Because of this, the city has put a moratorium on all new housing developments.

FRIEDMAN: Because there's no point.

Again, city official Evelyn Friedman.

FRIEDMAN: I mean, we have so many properties in the neighborhoods, why build new when we have plenty of properties that we can get people to buy.

And that's the point -- to get people back into foreclosed properties. It's one part of a multi-layered approach to the foreclosure crisis in Boston that seems to be working.

In Boston, I'm Monica Brady-Myerov for Marketplace.

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