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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Wars and foreclosures

From a recent news feed...Families of our nation's fighting forces are struggling much more against the scourge of foreclosures. The rate of foreclosures in towns where soldiers and sailors live is increasing at nearly four times the pace of the national average. That's more than during the Vietnam War, the Korean War and World War II, according to data from says foreclosure filings in 10 towns and cities within 10 miles of military facilities, rose by an average 217 percent from January through April this year, compared to last year. Nationwide, the overall rate during the same period was only 59 percent.

The biggest surge was in Columbia, South Carolina, home to Fort Jackson, where the Army trains recruits for combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Columbia, properties in some stage of foreclosure rose a whopping 492 percent from a year earlier. The second-biggest strike against homeownership was a 414 percent increase in foreclosures in Woodbridge, Virginia, next to the historic Marine Corps Base Quantico.

Foreclosure filings were up 300 percent in the cities around the Norfolk, Virginia Naval Base and the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base near Oceanside, California, RealtyTrac said. Foreclosures have more than doubled in Havelock, North Carolina, site of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. Other military base cities experiencing foreclosure rates above 100 percent include Carlsbad and Barstow, California and Columbus, Georgia.

The Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act protects soldiers and sailors from losing homes for nonpayment of mortgages only while on active duty and for 90 days after they return home.
However, military families were frequently targeted as subprime mortgage customers during the housing boom because of their frequent moves, frequent calls to duty, and low military pay, making them more likely to have weak credit application credentials.

I'm not sure if the RealtyTrac people capture the full extent of the damage that being at war has caused int he housing market, because a good number of the men and women serving in the two war zones are now being drawn from the Reserves and National Guard. There are certainly many stories about what happens when a National Guardsman gets called up to serve in Iraq and has to leave his job and family behind. Some companies (but very few) make up the difference between the service pay and the pay that the employee would normally get, while they are on active duty. Otherwise, it's tough for the family that's left behind to cope sometimes and many Guardsmen and reservist may return to pre-foreclosure situations, with maxed out credit cards and delayed or non-payments on the house.