"The efforts so far have been taken on a small scale. But local officials say they can become an important pillar of any housing recovery with the help of $4 billion in federal grants that were part of a housing bill Congress approved in July.
Indeed, the sale of foreclosed homes - not just to city governments but more broadly to investors and homeowners - contributed to a 3.1 percent increase in existing home sales in July, the highest level in five months, according to data released on Monday by the National Association of Realtors.
That hardly means that the housing crisis is over, because the number of homes for sale climbed to another record level as more people put their homes on the market. But without buyers taking foreclosed homes at steeply discounted prices, the problem would be even worse."