SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Wittenberg University student Ri Felts, class of 2006, didn’t want to “shadow” a professional during her internship. She wanted to tackle a problem and research possible solutions.
So that’s what the sociology major from Chillicothe, Ohio, did during the 2004-05 school year. Serving an internship with the City of Springfield, Felts completed an extensive research project on foreclosure rates with the community’s Fair Housing Authority. Her findings were detailed in a presentation titled “Foreclosures in Clark County: A Research Report” at an April 29 press conference at Springfield City Hall, which was attended by more than 50 people, including a reporter from the Springfield News-Sun. The paper ran an article on Felts’ report and subsequent presentation the following day.
“The experience has been extremely valuable,” Felts said. “I got the opportunity to work with many professionals in the community, which I hope will help me in the future. I also was able to apply things I had learned in my methods class.
“I know sometimes what we do in class seems almost abstract, but when you can apply that knowledge to the real, that’s definitely something. It was a lot of work, but it was well worth it.”
Felts’ interest in neighborhood and housing preservation has been heightened by the internship, which was arranged with the help of Wittenberg Professor of Religion Warren Copeland, also Springfield’s mayor and the university’s director of urban studies. The rate of foreclosures in Clark County has been rising steadily in recent years, from 1996 with 135 to 2004 with a stunning 1,041. Felts had discussions with eight focus groups, including realtors, lenders, consumers, lawyers, appraisers and even college students as she prepared her report.
Felts found that foreclosures stem from many root causes, including job losses in the area, a rise in land contracts, higher medical expenses and predatory lending. She documented potential solutions, such as homebuyer education, better enforcement of laws by prime lenders and perhaps even making financial literacy a high school educational requirement.
“Foreclosure and predatory lending are definitely big problems, and right now in Ohio, there isn’t a lot that can be done,” Felts said. “I think that’s the biggest hurdle. One thing that needs to happen is more regulation at the state level.”
Felts isn’t stopping there, however. She plans to expand her project next year for her senior thesis, and perhaps beyond.
“Houses that are foreclosed on are often abandoned, and this hurts the chances for the house to be restored,” Felts said. “Also, abandoned houses hurt the surrounding community, bringing unsavory activities in and lowering property value. This causes people to move out of the area and makes it harder to preserve that neighborhood. I would like to see foreclosures eventually get phased out of the market and restore the American city to its previous grandeur.
“I really hope someday to get a job where I can work with old homes. I think this experience, combined with my Wittenberg education, will help me to do that.”
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