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Florida Officials Get An "F" In Foreclosure Law


BRADENTON -- Florida's housing market is in shambles. There are over a million properties in the state that lie vacant in decaying neighborhoods afflicted with blight; but that's not what you will hear from those who benefit from Floridians believing otherwise.

If you were to listen to developers and the local government officials they influence, one might think there aren't enough houses for available buyers. One might think sales are up to a level not seen since 2006. Of course the dubious circumstances to which the housing market is now defined, is a shell game that makes data easy to manipulate and hard to fully comprehend.

In the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey Report, it stated that nearly 20 percent of all the homes in Florida are vacant. That number has recently dropped a point or two, not because of any real economic recovery, but due to cash purchases of foreclosed properties by hedge funds and banks that were on the winning end of government bail-outs and the debacles that initiated the recession in the first place.

Warren Buffet and his Blackstone Group have committed $4 billion to buy up property in three housing markets where such investments have been the most common: Arizona, Nevada and Florida. The Washington Post reported that Wall Street firms are buying hundreds of homes each day, and that those purchases equate to 70 percent of total sales.

In the Washington Post report, Deerfield Beach real estate consultant Jack McCabe said that Wall Street, the banks and the affluent 1 percent of the population stands to gain the most. "Meanwhile, lower-income Americans will lose their opportunity for the American Dream of building wealth through owing a home," said McCabe.

In April of this year Bloomberg reported: Home Ownership Lowest in 18 years. On April 11 of this year, The Miami Herald reported that Miami had posted the highest foreclosure activity of any large city in the nation for the first quarter. "One in every 79 residents received some type of foreclosure filing," according to Realty Trac.

Statewide, the number of residents receiving notices is one in every 104 in just the first quarter. That is more that three times the national average.

In the Miami Herald report of the top 10 foreclosure rates of metro areas in the nation, Florida takes claim to seven of them: Miami (1st), Orlando (2nd), Ocala (3rd), Tampa (5th), Jacksonville (7th), Melbourne (8th) and Lakeland (10th). 

Why would the media and local and state government officials be selling us the idea that things are looking up? I guess if you are really only representing those whose goal is to steal the American Dream from those who have fallen for their follies, such is the case.

Adding insult to injury is Florida House Bill 87. Obviously government officials aren't satisfied with the speed in which homes are being taken from their owners. HB 87 does something about that. The bill passed the Florida Legislature and now sits on the Governor's desk where it is expected to be signed into law. It gets rid of much of the red tape that was getting in the way when throwing families out of their homes and onto the street. A rather brilliant idea, HB 87 shifts the burden of proof of ownership from the bank to the homeowner, through the foreclosure process.

The votes in both the Florida House and Senate were mostly partisan, Republicans in favor, Democrats against. But when Democrats had a chance to stifle the bill, in both cases they stood on the sidelines. 

No one knows just how many properties have been taken away from homeowners with the help of the "robo-signing" that was detected in as much as 30 percent on the foreclosures in the first few years of the recession. But if HB 87 is signed by Governor Scott, what used to take 180 days could happen in as fast as 20 days from receiving a foreclosure notice.

The disingenuous rhetoric coming from the media and government representatives about how favorable the current real estate market is, needs to have violins playing behind it. One only needs to sit in the state or local government chambers to witness the complete disconnect between law makers and the common people, give way to special interest. 

I am not sure if lawmakers are lying to themselves to convince everyone else, or lying to everyone else to convince themselves. There are a few government officials who work hard to do the right thing and they deserve the utmost respect, but as in all too many cases, a majority seem aligned with the small but powerful special interests, rather than the constituents they portend to represent. Hopefully voters will take note of who's who before the next election.


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