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For now, this game has lots of losers

By Tom Fetters

Spin to Win ought to be a casino game.

After reading our Sean Ryan’s account of the flap over foreclosed houses sitting vacant in Milwaukee, though, I’m thinking Spin to Win is a high-stakes contest with three players: Milwaukee area social-religious groups, a trio of banks that foreclosed on many mortgages in the area and city of Milwaukee officials.

Southeastern Wisconsin Common Ground, the social-religious coalition, spins the story this way: Deutsche Bank, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo foreclosed on the loans and now are responsible for the properties. Because many of the houses are vacant and deteriorating, the three banks should commit a combined $75 million to fix them or tear them down.

For their part, the banks’ reps contend that as much as they understand the problem of abandoned properties and share Common Ground’s desire to rehab or raze the houses for the good of the neighborhoods, the banks have no authority to make changes to a vast majority of the buildings. The banks are merely trustees of these properties for others, not owners, the reps say.

And as for the Milwaukee officials, their spin is that they’re tired of foreclosed houses getting abandoned and becoming magnets for break-ins and vandalism, so they’ve enacted a law requiring vacant properties be registered and that the registrants fork over $250 every six months to help with upkeep.

At this point, it’s unclear who’ll win this game of Spin to Win, but until the growing problem of foreclosed and vacant houses is stemmed, the big losers will be the people in the neighborhoods where these empty buildings are standing.

Tom Fetters is a copy editor at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected]

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