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Somerville summit will focus on keeping residents in their homes

Posted by Marcia Dick  September 23, 2011 08:27 AM

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Just after the rental high season comes to a close, the Somervile Housing Division is holding a weeknight symposium to discuss the city's housing issues.

The symposium is open to the community and takes place Tuesday, Sept. 27 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the armory on Highland Avenue.

Sam Zimbabwe of Reconnecting America gives the keynote address. Panelists include Danny LeBlanc of the Somerville Community Corporation and Joe Macaluso of the Somerville Housing Authority as well as state experts from the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, and Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

"Participants will have an opportunity to learn more about affordable housing strategies, ask questions of the experts, and provide input to the Housing Division regarding what they want to see," city housing director Dana LeWinter said in a statement.

A key concern among clients of the Community Action Agency of Somerville is foreclosure, said advocacy director Melissa McWhinney. And it's not just a problem for homeowners: Tenants in foreclosed multifamily buildings are at high risk of losing their housing.

"The bank will in most cases want the home to be empty before they try to resell it," McWhinney said. "That's what we're facing a lot of right now."

The agency is concerned about blight in neighborhoods with foreclosed houses, and wants lenders to rent properties back to the homeowners and keep the existing tenants.

Typically lenders offer renters in foreclosed properties a nominal "cash for keys" sum, often as low as $500, she said, "which is not high enough for a household to relocate." If the tenant refuses, the case goes to court.

"This week out of four eviction summonses, two of them were foreclosure-related," McWhinney said. The week of Sept. 12, the figure was four summonses out of 10. The banks, she notes, usually have the resources to outlast tenants in court.

According to Yahoo! Real Estate, 83 Somerville properties went on the foreclosure list as of Aug. 24.


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