Vacant-House Hunters

Charities shift from building to renovating foreclosed properties

Like thousands of people in Northern California in years past, Tracie VanHook faced some familiar obstacles to her goal of owning a home: $600,000 price tags and banks that wouldn't lend to people who make a modest salary — as Ms. VanHook does as a personal trainer.

But in the past year, as the housing market crashed, Ms. VanHook's prospects brightened. As foreclosures spiked, available housing did as