Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Squatters and evictions run rampant in South Jamaica

From the Daily News:

Last spring, Pamela Chappell saw a man sweeping the stoop next door at 114-02 Inwood St. in South Jamaica. At first she thought, "That's nice, somebody bought the foreclosed house and moved in."

Then came reality.

"I find out it's a squatter," she said.

The home had been empty since early 2008, which was not helpful to Chappell, who has owned her home next door since 2001 and has paid her bills on time.

The squatter had a partner, a pregnant woman. They jimmied the lock to the basement and lived in the house for more than a month until cops kicked them out in June.

The cops found a live pet hamster and a sonogram that had apparently been left behind by the pregnant woman. Since then, the house has been boarded up.

Once, Chappell's home was worth $425,000. Now, she says she's been told it's worth far less than half that.

"It's because of that," she said, pointing next door.

Also from the Daily News:

"Homeowners, desperate to avoid losing out on the American Dream, are more vulnerable to mortgage fraud schemes," he said, noting recent charges against 41 defendants who targeted "homeowners who were prepared to believe anything if it meant they could keep their homes."

Nowhere is this more evident than in South Jamaica, Queens, where the Daily News last year found one of the highest concentrations of foreclosures in the city.

In a return visit last month, The News found speculators snapping up foreclosed homes from debt-laden owners, using "straw" buyers to inflate prices and then abandoning or reselling them.

The most common tactic is a "short sale," in which speculators pay less than the outstanding mortgage and sell it for twice its value. Those houses often end up back in foreclosure.

In June 2008, The News examined how the collapse of the housing market visited despair upon a four-block stretch in Queens - from Linden Blvd. in the north, Foch Blvd. to the south, 145th St., Inwood St., 146th and 147th Sts. west to east.

At the time, 98 homes were in foreclosure there - a dire situation that broke up families, forced parents and children into the streets and hurt responsible neighbors who paid their bills on time.

A return visit last month discovered 27 more foreclosures in that four-block symbol of the long-lasting effects the foreclosure crisis is having on New York.

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