Foreclosures on the rise in Beaufort County

Published 10:54 am Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Staff Writer

In 1998, Beaufort County recorded 57 foreclosures.
In 2009, there were 141 foreclosures in the county.
Through July 31 of this year, there had been 117 foreclosures here, and the county appeared on pace to meet or exceed a 12-year peak of 152 foreclosures set in 2004.
The numbers were culled from court records combed through by the nonprofit North Carolina Justice Center in Raleigh.
The local figures were supplied by Jeff Shaw, spokesman for the center.
The effect of escalating foreclosures is being felt across the state, the center reports.
“If average foreclosure rates for the year stay constant, North Carolina will reach a record of 70,000-plus filings for 2010, according to court data,” reads a news release from the center.
On Monday, the Washington Daily News asked a handful of local elected officials what role, if any, government should play in this ongoing crisis and what ripple effects the foreclosures are having on the local economy.
“Because of the economic downslope, things are not what they used to be,” said Ed Moultrie, a Washington councilman. “I think if we could bail out the car industry, something should be done to help everyday people to prevent them from having their home foreclosed on.”
Yet, Moultrie acknowledged there isn’t much local governments can do to fend off foreclosures.
“I think one of the things people can do to avoid having a house foreclosed on is to be up-front with your lender,” he said.
Hood Richardson, a Beaufort County commissioner, said he hadn’t heard much from his constituents about home losses.
“People are marveling at the foreclosures and the fact that people can’t pay their bills,” said Richardson, a Republican. “If people can’t pay their bill, I’m not sure government has a role in this.”
The commissioners can help stimulate the local economy by cutting taxes and fighting increased government regulation, he said.
The federal government has “thrown money at everything,” Richardson added.
“This is socialism,” he concluded.
Robert Cayton, also a Beaufort County commissioner, said the commissioners can assist in easing the crisis by attracting jobs to the county.
“We can continue to work to save jobs that we have in Beaufort County and also bring more jobs to Beaufort County that will pay the kind of salaries that are necessary for people to maintain their lifestyle,” said Cayton, a Democrat.
The home losses have a spreading, negative effect on the area economy, he maintained.
“It becomes a vicious cycle that we have to interrupt by securing new jobs and bringing new jobs in,” Cayton said.
The Obama administration recently announced it would extend more help to homeowners through “two targeted foreclosure-prevention programs” administered by the Housing Finance Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The administration said it would release some $3 billion through the programs, with more than $120 million of the money going to North Carolina through the Hardest Hit Fund. The fund was set up to stabilize the housing market in states severely burdened by the economic downturn and resulting foreclosures.
Some conservatives said the programs present too much of an intrusion into the private sector, while some liberals said they don’t go far enough