The Georgetown South Community was built in the mid 1960s and was considered a standout neighborhood at the time. It was the first of its kind—row houses built in the likeness of Georgetown on the Potomac River.
Fast forward several years; past the real estate crash and foreclosure crisis and that same neighborhood of 860 units has 75 vacant properties.
Neighborhood advocates say homeownership has fallen from above 60 percent to below 40 percent.
Meg Carroll, community manager for the Georgetown South Community Council, said the inability of the banks to renegotiate/modify loans for distressed homeowners has led to the high number of foreclosures in the Manassas City neighborhood.
In 2009, 21 percent of the homes in Georgetown South were vacant.
The neighborhood has had more than 270 foreclosures since the beginning of the crisis in 2004.
This has led to increased crime and a lack of visibility, according to Carroll.
A property at 9251 George Street is vacant. The windows are broken. Thieves have stolen everything form the fence to the AC unit and copper piping. Other vacant homes eventually become inhabited by drug users and prostitutes.
Carroll said the crimes and damage to the property are not dealt with on a regular basis and in an expedient manner because "nobody claims ownership."
"I know what blight can do to a neighborhood," she said. That's because Carroll served as a Manassas City police officer for 21 years prior to taking on the role as community manager in Georgetown South.
Carroll was part of a group of 40 religious and community leaders with Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE) who gathered at the Prince William County Courthouse in Manassas Tuesday to release a report about mortgage 'robo-signing.'
According to a media advisory issued by VOICE, an investigation by a team of more than 30 of its citizen investigators found that many of the documents filed with the Prince William Clerk of Court appeared to have been "produced without proper oversight, to have been hurridly signed and completed and to be potentially fraudulent."
VOICE leaders and community activists, like Carroll, sent a message Tuesday to state and federal elected officials to hold the financial institutions accountable for the robo-signing scandal and predatory lending, which is believed to have negatively impacted neighborhoods in Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park.
According to VOICE, the jurisdiction has the most foreclosures in he state of Virginia with more than 16,000 and has the 26th highest percentage of underwater mortgages (47.4 percent) in the U.S.
Robo-singing had something to do with what has happened in Georgetown South, Carroll said. We need to hold them (financial institutions) responsible for turning our "community of owners to a community of landlords," she added.