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Florida's Gov. Crist weighs a holiday foreclosure freeze

TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Charlie Crist said Monday he is considering imposing a temporary freeze on housing foreclosures in Florida to provide some holiday relief from the housing and financial turmoil that continues to shock the state's economy.

''I think it would be a good thing to be able to do,'' Crist said.

The governor is also warming to the idea of a 50-cents a pack increase in the state cigarette tax -- one of several ideas he's considering to staunch Florida's growing budget gap, now at $2.1 billion.

He offered no details about the foreclosure freeze, although the Florida Home Builders Association urged him last week to adopt a plan similar to one proposed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. That proposal requires lenders to wait 90 days before selling the home of a borrower in default to allow the homeowner to negotiate more affordable terms for the loan.

According to data obtained by the Home Builders Association, there are 54,000 homes in foreclosure in Florida, second only to California, and one in five homeowners have mortgages that are ''upside down,'' with loans exceeding a home's value.

The biggest resistance to a foreclosure freeze is expected from lenders and mortgage servicing companies. Read the complete story at