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The City of Cleveland’s lawsuit from last Friday, filed against twenty big mortgage lenders and investment banks reveals some startling stats about the mortgage crisis and the havoc big financial houses are wreaking in communities across the country.
A little background. Cleveland has joined Baltimore and judges in other cities such as Buffalo in attempting to hold lenders accountable for homes lost to foreclosure. This story was told superbly in our cover story two weeks ago. The idea here is that these institutions never should have leant to these people in the first place, knowing they could never pay the money back and that in the case of Cleveland’s suit were creating a “public nuisance.” The suit notes some of these lenders don’t even have offices in Ohio or business licenses in the state. Some, like Ameriquest, which accounted for 27% of the subprime loans in the county, are barely in business today.
Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland lies, has about 1.3 million residents and 621,000 homes, according to the U.S. Census. The city’s suit claims foreclosures in the county have jumped from just 111 in 2002, a recessionary year, to 7,500 last year. They’re presently occuring at the rate of 20 a day. Estimates are that some $460 million in property value has been lost as these homes sit empty and uncared for.
Now, more numbers. Here, according to the suit, is who’s responsible for the most foreclosures in the county in the past four years.
Deutsche Bank: 4,750 foreclosures
Wells Fargo: 4,000
Washington Mutual 900
Bank of America 450
BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.