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Hispanics hit hard by foreclosure

MANATEE — Losing their home to foreclosure was only the beginning of the Nogales family’s troubles.

The Tampa-area family — a single mother and her three children, ages 25, 18 and 17 — were forced to break up and now live separately with relatives or friends. The youngest has become depressed because she rarely sees her best friend and no longer attends her regular school. The 18-year-old has gotten into legal trouble for fighting. Arguments, resentment and anxiety among members of the extended family have become more frequent.

“I never, ever, ever thought I would be in the situation I’m in, never to this day did I ever think,” said the mother, who fell into foreclosure after she lost her job and the monthly payment on her adjustable-rate mortgage increased.

The Nogaleses were among 25 families interviewed for a study released Tuesday that said foreclosures impact Hispanic families far beyond the loss of a home.

“It’s the first (study) of its kind, and we hope this report is a call to action,” said Janet Murguía, president and chief executive of the National Council of La Raza, a national Hispanic advocacy group that conducted the study in conjunction with the University of North Carolina’s Center for Community Capital.

“We believe our report will be among the first to put a face on this crisis,” she said during a conference call with reporters.

The families, whose full identities were not disclosed, reported frequent moves, strained family relationships, marital discord, anxiety, depression and poor academic or job performance following the foreclosure. Some said they skipped taking medication or seeing doctors because they lacked insurance or couldn’t afford it, while others said they came close to becoming homeless.

The study also found:

n The families lost an average of $89,155 because of foreclosures and had to rely on food stamps and other public assistance.

n None reported being offered a loan modification or other help from their lenders.

n All but one family exhausted their savings in an effort to keep their home, and now have little or no money for emergencies.

n Most reported their children had academic or behavioral problems because of the upheaval caused by the foreclosures.

Yraida Alonso, director of Catholic Charities’ Manatee County housing and immigration programs, said her agency has seen those and other effects of foreclosure on Hispanic and non-Hispanic families alike.

“It is a heavy, emotional time for them,” she said. “It is their home. They are losing their home.”

The study said the housing crisis is forecast to cause 1.3 million Hispanic families to lose their homes between 2009 and 2012 and erase up to $98 billion in Hispanic household wealth. The crisis has created a “foreclosure generation” that threatens to devastate the Hispanic community, the study’s authors said.

“We can assume that many of these families are going to be pushed back into poverty,” said Janis Bowdler,deputy director of La Raza’s Wealth-Building Policy Project. “They were knocked off that path to the middle class.”

The study said the federal government should force lenders to reduce loan balances and take other steps to prevent foreclosure, even when borrowers have lost their jobs. It also advocates stronger consumer protections against predatory lending, which the study said was a major reason for Hispanic foreclosures.

Duane Marsteller, transportation/growth and development reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.

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