1,600 city homes may be auctioned

In an effort to prevent the Sheriff’s Office from resuming foreclosed-home auctions, Councilman Curtis Jones recently said, “April Fools Day would be if we allowed [them] to continue next month.” A judge moved April Fools Day up four days with a Monday ruling anyway.

Common Pleas Court President Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe’s decision means sales will proceed April 5 after a three-month delay designed to help homeowners apply for a federal emergency-funding program.

“This is Philly for cheap!” Jones said yesterday. “On Monday, I watched 10 bankers, who began this recession with their bad subprime loaning, plead with the judge to rule in their favor and create the largest sheriff sale in the history of Philadelphia.”

The Philadelphia Unemployment Project (PUP) argued Dembe should delay the sales until owners of an estimated 1,600 properties had time to apply for the $1 billion Emergency Homeowner Loan Program enacted by Congress in October. More than $105 million of that would “provide bridge loans to unemployed or injured homeowners” in Pennsylvanians who have seen their income drop more than 15 percent “through no fault of their own.”

Seven months later, however, EHLP is not in operation leaving the 200 people PUP already deemed eligible with little more than Dembe’s order that deeds can’t transfer within 90 days, a compromise broached by lenders.

“A lot of lenders and Wall Street got their bailout, but this is a program to help average Americans,” said PUP organizer Terrance Meacham. “By starting these Sheriff’s sales, some could fall through the cracks even though they’re eligible.”

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