Dallas, TX – Bill Zeeble: Johnnie Hill's lived in this southern Dallas home on South Ewing Avenue for 41 years. Now, she's fighting to keep it.
Johnnie Hill, homeowner: I've been here since I was 16, this is the only place I've ever known, really. First it was my mom's, then mine, and I would like for it to go to my grandson. It's just a family house. It's just a home.
Bill Zeeble : But after so many decades, the house required repairs. So even though it was fully paid off, she took out a 2nd mortgage to cover the costs. She didn't realize it had an adjustable rate. When she took out that home loan 2 years ago her interest rate was 8.5 percent. Now with a higher rate, her monthly payment is 50 percent higher. And she's been on a fixed income for years.
Hill: My monthly payments started out at $470. I'm on disability. I only get a thousand one hundred dollars a month. I was making the 470 for one & a half years, and all of sudden it jumped from $470 to $699.
Zeeble: Hill couldn't afford the increase. Now more than 3 months behind on payments, the lender says she must come up with 35-hundred dollars, or they'll foreclose. Jay Cole, runs an assistance program for people like Hill, at Dallas' First United Methodist Church. He says Hill's story is all too common.
Jay cole: Most people we see aren't fortunate to own their own home. But the ones we do see are struggling to maintain their home right now. Especially for a client like Johnnie on a fixed income, and for whatever reason the lending company put her in an adjustable rate mortgage on a fixed income.
Zeeble: While north Texas foreclosure rates haven't risen as much as elsewhere, they've been climbing by double digits recently, reaching record highs. Texas ranks 11th in the number of foreclosures. The Dallas Business Journal's Assistant Editor, Chad Watt, says our region looks good by comparison. But, with a building slowdown here, foreclosures and the overall Texas economy could get worse.
Chad Watt, Assistant Editor, Dallas Business Jrnl: Certainly there's a slowdown in construction activity , and there are few industries that employ more people than the construction business. Foreclosures matter. If you're the one being a foreclosed upon, if you're facing a foreclosure, that's a big issue for you.
Zeeble: As presidential candidates crisscross the state seeking votes, they're offering solutions to the housing problem.
Hillary Clinton proposes a 90-day moratorium on subprime foreclosures, a 5-year freeze on subprime interest rate changes, and a 30 billion dollar emergency fund to help troubled homeowners make payments.
Barack Obama wants up a smaller emergency fund, and rejects an interest rate moratorium, saying it could force higher interest rates. He wants tax credits to slow foreclosures, & would crack down on predatory lenders.
Republican John McCain says mortgage companies must divulge their lending practices. He'd offer relief to those facing the loss of their home, but isn't specific.
Governor Huckabee wants little government interference, suggesting the president's plan to temporarily freeze interest rates may even be too much.
Chad Watt: Certainly they're stressing they can see this uncertainty that people here and everywhere are feeling.
Zeeble: Since KERA first asked Johnnie Hill's lender, CIT, about the circumstances of her loan, two company executives contacted Ms. Hill. She says CIT has eliminated the higher, adjustable rate payment. She'll continue paying the lower monthly amount she can afford. And, she tells KERA, it appears she can stay in her house. Bill Zeeble, KERA NEWS. Bzeeble@Kera.Org