Foreclosures in Franklin County more common than people think, experts say

  • Robert McCollum leans on the his truck blocking the end of his driveway while he watches his home being auctioned off on Shaw Road in Bernardston on Monday. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The 179 Shaw Road log cabin home in Bernardston, which has been the home of Bob McCollum, went for sale to the Bank of New York Mellon Monday. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

  • One of a handful of signs put up by an advocate in support of Bob McCollum. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

  • Al Norman, longtime friend and elder care advocate, represented Bob McCollum, who was in the hospital, at the foreclosure of his Bernardston home Monday. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

Recorder Staff
Monday, March 12, 2018

GREENFIELD — The story of Bob McCollum and the foreclosure of his Bernardston home is far from a rare case, regional housing experts say.

In 2017, there were 103 auctions for properties facing foreclosure in Franklin County, according to data from a western Mass. grassroots advocacy group, “Springfield No One Leaves!”

“It’s more common than people think,” said Rose Webber-Smith, lead organizer for the group that tries to prevent evictions in parts of western Mass.

As it turns out, McCollum, who is facing a possible eviction from his home after the bank bought it back last Tuesday, is not alone in Bernardston. In 2017, five homes in Bernardston went to auction. And as one might expect in bigger towns, there were more foreclosure proceedings. In Greenfield, there were 22 auctions and in Orange, there were 31.

Executive Director of the Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority Frances Pheeny concurred with Webber-Smith, saying her government-funded organization has seen an “uptick” in people they’ve worked with over foreclosures in recent months.

“For some folks, it’s a misconception that the foreclosure issue is done with,” Pheeny said, 10 years after the housing bubble burst. “but I don’t think it is.”

Pheeny said the housing and redevelopment authority hasn’t seen the issue limited to foreclosures from the housing bubble. Instead, it’s “generally situations where individuals had some major life change, whether its a loss of a job or a medical issue or a divorce.”

In McCollum’s case, he took out a $153,000 loan on an adjustable interest rate in 2003 and later fell ill with cancer, forcing him to stop working and fall behind on his payments.

When it’s older people, it’s more likely to be as a result of the housing bubble, Webber-Smith, while with younger people the loans tended to be taken out more recently.

“When you have a mortgage and one significant life event that can set you back,” Webber-Smith said.

Both Webber-Smith and Pheeny said there are more limited resources now because a former state aid program ended last year.

“The state is trying to work with organizations like ours to make sure we have the capacity and resources to help people at foreclosure and at risk,” Pheeny said. “If there’s anybody in the county that’s at risk, we are here to help them.”

Webber-Smith said one of the most important things in all of this is to let people know what’s wrong and voice it loudly.

“The problem is society says these are things that we shouldn’t talk about; we shouldn’t talk about when were in trouble,” Webber-Smith said. “We teach people to let go of that shame.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:


413-772-0261, ext. 264