The housing crisis hits South hardest

As we've documented here at Southern Exposure and the Institute, the South as a region has been hit harder than other regions by sub-prime lending. A new study from ACORN finds that this is now putting Southern families at a unique risk of losing their homes in the still-unfolding foreclosure crisis.

According to the report:

The South is particularly vulnerable to concentrated foreclosures as the national crisis stemming from risky loans sends monthly mortgage payments soaring beyond affordability, a new ACORN report on national mortgage data demonstrates.

"Foreclosure Exposure: A study of racial and income disparities in home mortgage lending in 172 American cities," identifies communities facing concentrated foreclosures - and shows that families of color run a disproportionate risk of losing their homes.

Of the 10 metropolitan areas found to be at the highest risk nationwide, seven were in the South, and data showed that high-cost subprime loans accounted for more than two-fifths of all loans issued in those cities.

African-American and Latino homeowners were found to be more than twice as likely to hold a high-cost, subprime loan than were white homeowners. Many borrowers could have qualified for more affordable, fixed-rate loans, but were unscrupulously guided toward more expensive products.

The report also looks at how foreclosures can hurt communities -- for example, "vacant homes depress property values by inviting crime and increasing blight."

ACORN is calling on lenders and servicers to modify loans to make them more affordable, and on state and federal governments to pass strong laws against predatory lending without pre-empting local legislation already in place.