10:00 PM PDT on Monday, August 1, 2011

By IMRAN GHORI
The Press-Enterprise

San Bernardino County is severing its ties to the Inland Empire Economic Recovery Corp., more than two years after the nonprofit group was started to help reduce blight caused by the foreclosure crisis.

The county provided $2.5 million in start-up funds to the corporation in January 2009 as part of a three-year agreement to help it buy, restore and resell foreclosed homes.

The Board of Supervisors voted last week to end its agreement with the Recovery Corp. and seek the return of $1.575 million by Jan. 12, 2012. The county has already received $797,875 from the company and will allow it to retain a small amount for overhead and other costs, county spokesman David Wert said.

Both Wert and Robert Hooker, the Recovery Corp.’s executive director, said the partnership was always intended to be a temporary one.

The private-public partnership had faced setbacks from the start with county officials and other saying so far it had not been able to make a large dent in the region’s foreclosure problem.

The company has purchased, renovated and resold 32 bank-owned homes, according to a county report to the board. County and corporation officials said the goal of the effort was to sell homes to individuals and families who would live in them rather than investors who would convert them to rentals.

Hooker said the group hoped to increase its activity, purchasing and reselling more than 75 homes for this fiscal year. The corporation also was increasing its funding from private investors from $3 million to $10 million and was approved to start buying homes in pools from Fannie Mae, he said.

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