The sale stops here! – Sheriff tries to keep people in homes

America’s economic downturn; Is the worst yet to come? (FCN, 04-11-2008)

( – Looking to capitalize off of someone else’s misfortune with a foreclosure sale? Don’t look in Philadelphia because Sheriff John Green has stayed the foreclosure sales and instead is offering help and hope to beleaguered homeowners.


The sheriff’s office, well known for securing courtrooms, transporting prisoners and auctioning foreclosed properties, has now become the place for families to turn when foreclosure comes knocking.

“More of our neighbors, our families and our friends are falling behind on their mortgages and losing their homes to sheriff’s sale. My staff and I watch the suffering every day and witness the heart-wrenching scenes as families lose their primary means of wealth-building and face eviction,” wrote Sheriff Green on his website,

“In Philadelphia, the number of sheriff’s sale properties has increased from an average of 300 to 400 per month to more than 1,000. The city’s broad and diverse networks of Housing Counseling Agencies and Credit Counseling Services have been our front-line defense, but their staffs are overloaded, increasingly frustrated by reams of red tape, and slowed by the proliferation of voice mail and procedural barriers,” the sheriff said.

He added, “These agencies desperately require this City’s attention and its help. Today, I am announcing a new initiative designed to slow the dramatic rise in local foreclosures, and to keep more financially troubled, but credit-worthy, borrowers in their homes.”

That’s where Sheriff Green’s three-point plan, “A Declaration of Neighborhood Security: Safeguarding The Right to Protect Our Homes,” comes in. It proposes a massive publicity campaign to alert borrowers who are falling behind in their payments to steps they must take to delay foreclosure and negotiate a suitable repayment plan.

Second, a community-wide coalition would be created to look at short-term and long-term legislative solutions dealing with issues such as attorney fees and the need for third-party loans to help provide temporary mortgage assistance to FHA borrowers.

Third, the plan seeks to rally community support and provide immediate relief in neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by the rising tide of foreclosures.

Sheriff Green started halting foreclosure sales in 2004 when he noticed an unusual rise in the number of properties up for sale.When the rise began again in 2007 City Councilman Curtis Jones also took notice.This year he proposed a resolution imposing an indefinite moratorium on foreclosure sales which Sheriff Green was happy to enforce.

Called the “Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Pilot,” under court order no house can be sent to a sheriff’s sale without the owner-occupant having court-sponsored mediation.

Before mediation, the home-owner must take part in a free housing-counseling session to draw up a reasonable proposal to present to the mortgage company.

If the counselor cannot work out a deal, then the borrower and advocates for the borrower and lender appear at a conciliation session before a temporary judge.

If that doesn’t work, it goes back to court for an intervention and if that doesn’t work their homes can move to sheriff’s sale.

When the first sales were halted homeowners were happy but lenders were not.“It’s not his job to postpone things in favor of certain people,” argued Michael VanBuskirk, a Philadelphia attorney, to the Wall Street Journal.

But now they are seeing the bigger picture. Michael T. McKeever, of Goldbeck, McCafferty & McKeever, a Philadelphia law firm that represents lenders told The Philadelphia Inquirer that his clients lost money with every foreclosure. “In a declining market, the losses get bigger,” he said.

He applauded the forced conciliation sessions because they require both sides to work out a deal more quickly.

“The longer they are in default, the harder it is for them to pay,” Mr. McKeever said, and the more money the lenders lose.

Student Minister Rodney Muhammad, of Muhammad Mosque No. 12 welcomes the help for homeowners. “This is definitely needed.It’s emergency relief.We need remedies to address the long term economic problems that families face.It would be devastating to see the numbers of people who would face sheriff’s sales of their property,” he added.