Thursday, February 21, 2008

Abandoned Homes Few and Far Between in Athens

By: Julie Hartz

The national Foreclosure rate went up 50 percent last year, putting the United States economy in a bit of a crisis. Recently the Bush Administration issued a reprieve for people facing foreclosures, giving them an extra 30 days to try to work something else out, rather than leaving them homeless on the streets.

According to the Washington Post, the new plan is expected to help only a fraction of the 425,000 people who are more than 90 days late on payments on their mortgages. But how is this national problem affecting Athens County? Not as much as one would expect, seems to be the answer.

Foreclosures Here in Athens

Mayor Paul Wiehl says because Athens is a college town, it is often different from the rest of the economy. “In terms of the (housing) market, I haven’t seen a real slump in it.” Students staying off campus need somewhere to live, and with more than half of the student population living somewhere other than the dorms, that means a lot of occupants who need a home. Because of the high demand, the number of abandoned homes in the Athens area is significantly lower than surrounding cities.

When Athens City Code Enforcement Officer Paul Eschenbacher was asked how the foreclosure problem affected Athens, his response was simple, “Not very much […] There are always a handful of abandoned homes or abandoned houses, but usually those houses eventually either get used again or they get so dilapidated that we have the procedure to condemn them.”

Eschenbacher could only think of three houses in the Athens area that were abandoned, two of them on Grosvenor Road. He said, “In comparison to what I’ve seen in big cities and even larger towns around Ohio, there, you know, hasn’t been much of a problem with abandoned homes.”

A Look at Foreclosures State by State

If you take a look at this picture, those states in the red represent those with the highest foreclosure rates, and blue represents lowest. You can see just by looking that Ohio has one of the highest foreclosure rates in 2007. Luckily, that has not affected Athens as much as other parts of the state such as Cleveland and Cincinnati. In comparison to the rest of the nation, it seems the East coast is taking less of a hit than the West coast.

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