By Peter H. Milliken
New foreclosure filings have continued their post-recession decline, both statewide and in the Mahoning Valley, according to figures compiled by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Statewide, the 53,163 foreclosure filings last year represented the lowest number in 11 years and a 24.6 percent decline from the 70,469 filed in 2012.
“People are getting back to work. I think, with the economy improving and interest rates improving, people are going to refinance their mortgage rates. I think banks have been willing to ease up on interest rates and get people staying in their homes,” said Michael V. Sciortino, Mahoning County auditor.
Another contributor to the decline is a state law that took effect about two years ago, which allows counties to form land banks, such as Mahoning’s, he said. “A land bank is able to capture land and capture title prior to foreclosures” and put the land to productive use, he noted.
Atty. Jeff Lilly with Community Legal Aid’s Warren office, said the Save the Dream program, which provided funds to help home-owners become current in their mortgage payments and ended last month, was a major factor in the decline locally and statewide.
Many clients of CLA, which represents low-income people in civil matters, benefited from that program, he said.
“Back when the problem was fully realized, some courts set up a mediation program” to handle foreclosures, he said, noting that he successfully used mediation in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to keep a client in a home through a loan modification.
“Slowly, the economy’s recovering, and that might be a factor” in the decline, Lilly said.
In the Mahoning Valley, the declines were notable, but the percentage drops from 2012 to 2013 were not nearly as large as the statewide drop.
Lilly said he didn’t know why the Mahoning Valley’s recent rate of decline in foreclosures has lagged the statewide rate, but he observed: “There have been so many of them filed, that, eventually, the numbers are going to drop.”
Trumbull County had the largest recent local decrease, registering a 13.8 percent decline from 1,249 foreclosures in 2012 to 1,077 in 2013.
Columbiana County had a 6.3 percent decrease from 448 in 2012 to 420 in 2013.
Mahoning County’s new foreclosure filings fell from 1,360 in 2012 to 1,306 last year, a 4 percent reduction.
Between 1996 and the bottom of the recession in 2009, the number of foreclosures statewide rose for 14-consecutive years, but last year marked the fourth-consecutive annual decline.
The 2013 total of 53,163 foreclosures is 40 percent below the high point of 89,061 in 2009, the top court said.
Trumbull County’s new foreclosure filings numbered 1,605 in 2009, and they have declined in every year since except 2012.
The 2013 number there is 32 percent less than 2009’s.
Mahoning’s numbers have declined every year since they peaked at 1,819 in 2010, for a drop of 28.2 percent since 2010.
Columbiana County’s foreclosure filings have fallen every year since 2009, when there were 702 such filings, for a 40 percent drop since 2009.
County common pleas courts submit their foreclosure statistics monthly to the Ohio Supreme Court, but the data do not separate residential, commercial and tax foreclosure filings.
The top court began gathering foreclosure statistics in 1990.