Initiatives work to convert foreclosures for homeless use

After the economic and housing market collapse, foreclosure and homelessness rates simultaneously surged throughout the country.

After the economic and housing market collapse, foreclosure and homelessness rates simultaneously surged throughout the country. Many people have called for vacant properties to be turned into shelter for these homeless individuals, but legal complexities continue to slow such initiatives.  

Property data indicates that there are currently five vacant foreclosures for every homeless person in the country, according to a report from Truthdig. While there are some government efforts, such as the Title V program, to make these distressed properties available to the homeless, critics say more need to be done.

Under the Title V program, foreclosures in the government inventories, including supplies from the Federal Housing Administration, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, can be turned into shelter for the homeless by non-profit organizations as well as other state and local advocacy groups. However, these organizations only have a small window of opportunity to complete a project, or their proposal will be rejected.

Many of the homes handed over to this initiative come in uninhabitable conditions and groups are given 25 days to bring them up to appropriate standards, with progress monitored by the Department of Health and Human Services. Due to the restrained timeframe, just 91 properties, including single- and multi-family homes, were converted through the Title V program between 1988 and 2003.       

"The cost of real property can be prohibitive to any homeless service provider," National Law Center on Homelessness housing attorney Tristia Bauman told Business Insider. "With this program, organizations are able to engage in work they might not otherwise have been able to do."

With economic and housing market conditions still on shaky ground, the foreclosure rate increased in May, which could result in even more nationwide homelessness. At the very least, it will force a number of households back into the rental sector while they work to repair their finances.

More home repossessions in May

Last month the foreclosure rate increased 9 percent from April, according to a report from RealtyTrac. As a result, there were an estimated 205,990 properties in some stage of the home repossession process. This was the first time activity exceeded 200,000 units in more than three months.

While the overall rate increased in May, there were some states where foreclosure activity was much more widespread than others. For example, there were 33 percent more foreclosures in Georgia than the previous month, and 30 percent more than a year earlier. An estimated one in every 300 homes in the state are now in some stage of the foreclosure process.

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