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Southern Chase was a new kind of subdivision for Beazer, an experiment in selling low-cost homes to low-income families. The strategy was a financial success for Beazer. But the neighborhood fell apart. Seventy-seven buyers have lost homes to foreclosure in Southern Chase, a subdivision of 406 homes.

A wave of loan defaults in starter-home developments is pushing the foreclosure count in Mecklenburg County to record heights, an Observer analysis shows.

In the past decade, Beazer Homes USA built more houses in Mecklenburg County that have since foreclosed than any other builder.

The city of Charlotte does not count foreclosures. Neither does Mecklenburg County. Nor the state of North Carolina. Nor the federal government.

Beazer strategy led to problems The company sometimes crossed the line between selling to people who could barely afford homes and selling to people who couldn't.

Home loan failures have more than quadrupled in Mecklenburg County since 1999. More foreclosures are filed here, per person, than any other county in the state.

When a homeowner falls behind on mortgage payments, the lender can ask a court to seize the home and sell it to cover the debt.Lenders asked courts in North Carolina to foreclose a record 45,500 homes last year, more than double the number in 2000.

The Observer first reported in January 2006 on the high failure rate for Charlotte-area loans arranged by Beazer and insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

People who bought a home in Southern Chase with an FHA loan arranged by Beazer Mortgage paid higher prices on average than other buyers in the subdivision.

Of the 406 original buyers in Southern Chase, 77 lost homes to foreclosure and at least an additional 12 filed for bankruptcy protection to stave off foreclosure.

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