News Column

NASA Layoffs Lead to Foreclosures in Florida

Dec. 13, 2012

Mary Shanklin

Space Shuttle

For the first time since the country's real estate collapse began about six years ago, Brevard County led the nation for foreclosure filings, according to a November report by the research firm RealtyTrac Inc.

More than any other county in the state, Brevard has been pummeled economically, with an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 layoffs related to the end of NASA's 30-year-old space shuttle program. The number of jobs lost there in recent years -- exceeds even the workforce at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

"The space center obviously hurt us a lot," said Tim Harber, president of Space Coast Realtors, a trade association for real estate brokers and agents. "Consumer confidence in this area is probably lower than normal because of the shuttle program."

Florida overall led the nation in foreclosure-related court filings for a third consecutive month in November, California-based RealtyTrac said in a report released today. There were 29,612 filings statewide during the month, up 3 percent from October and 20 percent from November 2011.

Nationally, foreclosure activity was down by the same proportions that they were up in Florida.

Florida's three-month record as the state with the most foreclosure activity comes as national foreclosure starts were at the lowest level since RealtyTrac began tracking them in December 2006.

"The trend is that the gap between Florida and some of the other hardest-hit states is widening instead of closing," said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac vice president. "Florida is getting worse while much of the rest of the country is seeing improvements."

Florida cities accounted for seven of the top 10 foreclosure "rates" among top U.S. metropolitan areas. Brevard led the way, with foreclosure filings for one in every 158 households during November -- more than four times the national average. Other Florida metro areas in the national Top 10: Ocala, Jacksonville, Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Sarasota-Bradenton, Port St. Lucie, and Gainesville.

Orlando was an anomaly in a continually troubled state: With 2,614 foreclosure filings during November, the four-county metro area ranked 23rd nationally for foreclosure actions. Metro Orlando has been in the Top 10 nationally many times, though never in the No. 1 spot.

The Orlando area's foreclosure filings were down 25 percent from October and down 7 percent from November 2011. Within the four-county area, which includes Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake counties, the only uptick was a 4 percent month-to-month increase in filings in Orange.

"Orlando bucked the trend for the state," Blomquist said.

But just east of the Orlando metropolitan area, Brevard County continues to feel the effects of ongoing layoffs. Just last week, the shuttle program's lead contractor, United Space Alliance, let go another 119 employees at Kennedy Space Center as operations continue to wind down.

Harber, who presides over the 1,300-member Space Coast Realtors, said Titusville and Palm Bay have been hardest-hit in a county that also has areas showing strong signs of recovery. Titusville has been at the core of the space-related layoffs, while Palm Bay "was just overbuilt" during the home-buying frenzy in the early and mid-2000s, Harber said.

"There was just too much speculation. There was too much development there and not enough jobs," he said. "It's a great retirement area but, without the influx of snowbirds coming in, it will take years for recovery."

Brevard does not appear to be headed out of the foreclosure trough anytime soon: The number of houses that received an initial foreclosure notice in November was up 12 percent from a year earlier.



Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: (c) 2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)


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