Board weighs action on foreclosures

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will consider several measures next month to mitigate the impact of foreclosures around the county, including purchasing some of the homes.

A county staff proposal suggests purchasing up to 10 foreclosed homes that are deteriorated or otherwise creating blight in a neighborhood, repairing the properties, and reselling them to first-time buyers or nonprofits, or renting them through the countys rental program.

Fairfax County went from having fewer than 200 foreclosures in 2005 to having more than 4,500 last year.

The proposed county program would also provide financial counseling for homeowners in distress, give assistance to about 100 first-time home buyers and county employees to purchase foreclosed properties, and offer home improvement loans.

Were not creating another program, were just using the tools available to us now, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) said.

The program could cost up to $8.7 million using existing funding sources, including $6.5 million from the countys affordable housing fund.

Board Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-At large) said that, if implemented correctly, the program could be a way to find good in the foreclosure crisis creating new workforce housing opportunities, protecting neighborhoods from blight and even replacing formerly overcrowded properties with the single-family uses the homes were intended for.

I continue to believe, if we do this in a targeted way, it can be a win-win-win, Connolly said.

Most board members expressed support for the measure, on which they will vote June 30, but the boards two Republican members expressed some doubts.

Supervisor Mike Frey (R-Sully) was not convinced that many of the foreclosed homes are in a suitable price range for first-time home buyers. A chart in the county staff report about the foreclosure program suggests that the majority are between $300,000 and $400,000.

Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) said the county should not get into the business of flipping properties.

Thats the job of the private sector, Herrity said, adding that he believes many of the foreclosed homes have been turning over on their own in the market.

County staff acknowledged that foreclosed properties are being purchased, the staff report states, but they are not sure if the buyers are investors or people who will actually live in the homes.

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