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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Foreclosing solutions

When I overhear a smart guy say over and over "it's the No. 1 story in the country," I want to know what the meaning of "it" is.

Todd Mark of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta had joined staff writer Alyssa Abkowitz and me last month at Creative Loafing's Political Party talk show at Dad's Garage Theatre. The topic was the financial crisis facing twentysomethings, which also had been the subject of Alyssa's Oct. 5 CL cover story.

But after the show, Mark said we should follow up with an article about the thousands of people in metro Atlanta who are losing their homes through foreclosures. Georgia, he pointed out, is one of the worst states in the country when it comes foreclosures.

He wasn't kidding. Alyssa's cover story this week takes us to the steps of the Fulton County Courthouse, where every month thousands of homes are put up for sale because their owners defaulted on loans. And, as Alyssa reports, the number of foreclosures in Georgia appears to be rising. That's partly due to laws here that make foreclosures easier than in other states.

Foreclosures and the mounting debt facing young people are parts of an even bigger story. Whether it's because of health-care costs, child-care costs, rising tuitions or stagnant paychecks, many hardworking Atlantans are finding it more difficult to make ends meet. Too often they're slammed by a crushing debt that turns their lives into something just this side of indentured servitude.

Our state's leaders act blissfully unaware. State legislative leaders have promised yet again this year to focus on headline-grabbing issues such as getting tough on sex offenders and illegal immigrants rather than on the real-world problems of ordinary Georgians. If anything, they're doing what they can to make things worse for their constituents: Tuition increases seem annually to exceed inflation. Lawmakers even went out of their way a couple of years ago to loosen regulations that had put at least some restraints on predatory lenders.

Hey, we may as well look on the bright side: Mark was right; these kinds of messes make for great stories.

-- Ken Edelstein

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