Buy Homes in Bank Foreclosure List, Tampa City Council Said

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Some neighborhoods hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis can expect to see fewer properties in bank foreclosure list anytime soon with the city council's approval of a program to purchase foreclosed and vacant properties in Tampa.

To implement the program, the Tampa city council approved the release of $1.1 million in preliminary budget. Under the plan, the budget of which is taken from Tampa's Community Redevelopment Agency's trust fund, foreclosed and vacant properties will be purchased, rehabilitated and repaired, and then resold. The redevelopment agency is responsible for the collection of property tax revenues in the city for redevelopment projects.

Redevelopment director Mark Huey explained that the city does not intend to earn profit from the housing recovery and stabilization program. He also pointed out that the city does not want to go into real estate business. All the city wants, Huey said, is to prevent the possibility that foreclosure houses will cause a blight on communities and neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, Tampa received a share of about $13.6 million from the $3.92 billion funding of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Program, an effort to abate foreclosures across the country and to stabilize the housing market.

Target areas that have been identified as recipients of the program's housing stabilization funding are North Tampa, Sulphur Springs and West Tampa. These areas have high rates of mortgage defaults, delinquencies and subprime mortgages.

Tampa's rehabilitation program involves the acquisition of nearly 80 foreclosure properties in areas severely affected by foreclosures. The properties will be repaired or torn down and sold. Under the federal grant, Tampa is also required to purchase and rehabilitate additional 30 repossessed homes as rentals.

To find eligible homebuyers, the city plans to coordinate with charities and nonprofit organizations. The federal grant will be made available to homeowners who are in danger of losing their properties to foreclosure.

Florida, which ranked number two in states with high foreclosure rates in April 2009, is expecting to receive about $541 million through the housing stabilization program. Florida reported 47,131 foreclosure filings in March, representing a 2 percent rise from last month and 56 percent more from a year ago total.

The state has one per 73 properties receiving filings for bank foreclosure list in the first quarter of this year.

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