County to host foreclosure summit to aid affected area residents

CONYERS - The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners will host a public forum Saturday to help provide resources and solutions for residents affected by foreclosures in the area.

The Community Foreclosures Summit, held in cooperation with U.S. Congressman Hank Johnson, D-Decatur, will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at 1400 Parker Road. The public meeting will address a variety of topics, including highlighting resources available for those unable to make mortgage payments, offering tips about how to protect property values in light of foreclosed properties in neighborhoods and instructing how best to purchase foreclosed properties.

"We wanted to take the lead in addressing concerns that we as a county and the citizens have about what is happening in the housing market," said County Chief of Staff Julie Mills.

Over the past couple of months, county officials have held a series of neighborhood block parties designed to open the lines of communications between residents and county commissioners.

"In attending the half dozen or so block parties, Chairman (Roy Middlebrooks) and the commissioners hear concerns from residents about what to do about the foreclosed homes in their neighborhoods, how they can protect their homes and what the county can do to step in and protect their homes," Mills said.

In 2007, 1,377 foreclosures were announced in the legal ads of the Rockdale Citizen, which represents a 20 percent increase in the number of foreclosures listed in 2006.

According to information provided by the Rockdale County Board of Assessors, 23 percent of homes sold between January and April were sales of foreclosed properties. In 2007, 16 percent of total sales were foreclosures.

Mills said Lamar Sims, director and chief appraiser for the Board of Assessors, will have updated sales numbers Saturday.

This week, commissioners approved a revision to the county's ordinance regarding upkeep of property. The ordinance now allows the county the option to mow overgrown and abandoned yards. According to Holly Bowie, director of Rockdale County Department of Community Compliance and Legal Affairs, 67 properties have been identified that could have their yards mowed and cleared of debris under this new provision.

Mills said the county has fielded a number of calls from residents concerned about abandoned properties.

"It's an issue of not only aesthetics, but health, safety and welfare. For example, rodents tend to be attracted to areas with overgrown grass and weeds and accumulated trash," she said.

Participants in Saturday's forum will include representatives from the Rockdale County Board of Assessors, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the CDC Federal Credit Union, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, Atlanta Legal Aid and Rockdale Department of Community Compliance and Legal Affairs.

Members of the public will have an opportunity to discuss issues with the speakers after the summit and to receive additional resources.

Mills said those unable to attend Saturday can view a program with many of the speakers on the local cable channel, Rockdale 23.

For more information, contact Julie Mills at 770-929-4052 or e-mail julie.mills@rockdalecounty.org.