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Florida Banks Halt Foreclosures

Crist, Florida banks halt foreclosures for 45 days

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Dec. 2, 2008 – Florida’s bankers and credit unions announced Monday that they’d suspend foreclosing on homeowners for the next 45 days.

Gov. Charlie Crist called a press conference to announce the halt in foreclosures, but neither he nor the president of the Florida Bankers Association, Alex Sanchez, could say how many people this could help.

The halt in foreclosures, however, wouldn’t help the 444,000 property owners who are in the process of being foreclosed upon. Florida has the third-highest foreclosure rate in the nation. Crist, who said last week that he would consider issuing an executive order halting foreclosures, said this moratorium would only cover homeowners with a homesteaded property who need the help.

“This is to help people in a time of need,” Crist said. “This is not for somebody who went and bought a bunch of condos in South Florida on the spec market.”

Sanchez thanked the governor for his “compassionate leadership at this time” but suggested that, with or without Crist, Florida banks planned to halt foreclosures anyway because they don’t want to get saddled with too much property or too much bad debt.

Sanchez said Crist’s Monday announcement was “a reaffirmation of our past practice and current practice.”

Sanchez said those who need help need to contact their banker, have no involvement with mortgage fraud and be willing to enter into a re-payment plan.

Crist also announced that the Department of Community Affairs will soon have $541 million for mortgage assistance and other financial aid for local governments that put together a plan to help homeowners in foreclosure. It includes $91 million for direct housing assistance. For more information, he urged people to go to www.floridahousing.org and www.dca.state.fl.us.

The housing-and-wage advocacy group ACORN called for more action from Crist and the banks.

“While we eagerly await more details, recent history has shown that voluntary measures have fallen fall short of addressing the enormity of the foreclosure crisis Florida faces,” ACORN organizer Paul Griffin said in a written statement. “We appreciate that the industry has delayed the crisis but now they need to help us solve it.”

Orlando Democratic state Rep. Scott Randolph, whose wife is an ACORN organizer, found greater fault with the proposal, saying in a written statement that “what they have offered Floridians is not relief, but rather vague promises made by unspecified lenders. Forty-five days is not a long enough moratorium; it doesn’t include those families already in foreclosures; and today’s press conference left Floridians wondering if their bank is even included in the offer.”