Negative equity and unemployment are driving the surge in Tucson home auctions.

In May, 622 homes in Tucson and in other parts of Pima County were repossessed through public auction and another 903 homes are set to get sold off through foreclosure auction if they are not rescued by their owners.

House auctions for sale will continue to surge in Tucson if the 74,317 underwater homeowners in the area as of the first quarter of this year are not helped by loan modification programs. The more than 74,000 underwater borrowers accounted for 36.4 percent of all mortgaged homes in the area, and the additional 10,648 homeowners nearing negative equity comprised 5.2 percent of the total.

In metro Phoenix, a staggering 550,000 homes or 58 percent of all mortgaged housing units have negative equity, the highest number of underwater mortgages for a metro area in the entire nation.

In April, the average sales price for units that went through Tucson home auctions was $134,967, lower by 35.9 percent than the $210,619 average price for all types of existing homes sold in April and lower by 38.5 percent than $219,487 average price for new homes sold during the month.

The number of units repossessed by lenders through home auctions in Arizona dropped in April, but surged again in May. A total of 5,452 homes became REO in April, down by 20.6 percent from 6,869 in March and lower by 10.8 percent than the 6,112 units repossessed in May.

To help the city recover from its economic troubles, the Charter Change Coalition has asked city officials to consider submitting city charter changes in the November ballot this year to empower the Tucson mayor and other city officials.

The recommendations are designed to make changes in the 1929 city charter that has been limiting the powers of city officials to address city problems, including implementing remedies that could help slow down Tucson home auctions.

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