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Wary lenders hindering South Florida's housing recovery

President Barack Obama took aim at the housing crisis during his first 100 days with a broad plan to stabilize the market by trying to prevent foreclosures, pushing down mortgage rates and offering a handsome tax credit to new buyers.

But has the effort helped South Florida, where foreclosures are soaring, many homeowners have little or no equity and price declines show no sign of abating?

The answer: A little bit – at least, so far, according to real estate analysts, distressed homeowners and the people trying to help them.

Interest rates and lower prices have spurred sales, but the steep fall in South Florida home values has kept hundreds of thousands of borrowers from refinancing and is prompting otherwise solvent homeowners to abandon their properties. Meanwhile, loan modifications remain time-consuming and difficult to obtain.

Perhaps the biggest roadblock to recovery in South Florida is that banks, for the most part, still aren't lending.

"The administration . . . is clearly having an impact in mitigating this disaster," said Mike Larson, a real estate analyst with Weiss Research in Jupiter. "But ultimately, it'll be the passage of time with lower prices and a turn in the broader economy that will finally put this housing downturn behind us."

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