LAST-CHANCE BILL TO PREVENT FORECLOSURES AND EVICTIONS SET FOR HEARING TOMORROW

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UPDATE AUGUST 20, 2020:  AB 1436 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 6-3 vote and will next be heard by the full Senate.

“There is an urgency to this.”—Assemblymember Monique Limon, who fears many Californians may lose their homes or become homeless if AB 1436, which she coauthored, is not approved

By Miriam Raftery

File photo:  Protest to stop foreclosures during the last recession

August 17, 2020 (San Diego) – To date, efforts to save homeowners and landlords from foreclosure, as well as extend eviction protections for renters in California have failed.  With the Legislature poised to adjourn soon and federal benefits expiring, a bill being heard tomorrow morning may be the last chance to prevent a wave of evictions and foreclosures. At 9:00 a.m. Aug. 18, Assembly Bill 1436 will be heard in the state Senate Judiciary Committee. 

The bill’s coauthor, Assemblymember Monique Limon, says the banking industry has been heavily lobbying members to oppose the measure. Assemblymember Limon previously introduced AB 2501 to prevent foreclosures, but the measure was defeated due to financial industry lobbyists.

That bill more broadly would have protected borrowers with auto loans and payday lender loans as well as mortgage holders. Language to protect mortgage holders (but not auto or payday loan borrowers) has been amended into AB 1436, a measure by Assemblymember David Chiu which also includes renter protections from evictions.

AB 1436 combines two measures, the Small Landlord and Homeowner Relief Act of 2020 and the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020. While some details may change during the legislative process, here is what the latest version of the bill includes:

It would protect both individual homeowners as well as owners of small and large multifamily units from foreclosure. It does not protect small businesses or other commercial property owners. ( A measure which would have done so, SB 939, was defeated in the Senate Appropriations Committee.)

If enacted, the bill would require lenders to offer forbearance for180 days with an option to extend that to 360 days, with no foreclosure for missed payments due to COVID-19, provided that the borrow notified the lender within certain time requirements.  The lender would have to offer repayment options but could not require a lump-sum balloon payment, but instead would have to offer other options, such as moving any missed payments to the end of the loan, or refinancing, but the lender could not require payments higher than before the forbearance period.

Renters who miss payments due to COVID-19 would be protected from eviction between March 4, 2020 until either April 1, 2021 or 90 days after the COVID-19 state of emergency ends, whichever comes first. 

In an exclusive interview today with East County Magazine, Assemblymember  Limon said her earlier measure faced two key challenges. “We were asking legislators to anticipate a problem that wasn’t right in front of us; foreclosure is something we have not seen” as yet in the pandemic.” 

But that may change. Protections against foreclosure on federally backed loans expires August 31; Congress adjourned without extending that deadline. In addition, the extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits ended July 31, and the U.S. Senate refused to take up a House proposal to extend that before adjourning.

The second problem in getting protections for homeowners and renters passed is enormous lobbying pressure from the banking industry to kill such relief measure. Limon says Sacramento has seen “35 or 40 lobbyists against one bill,” while legislators heard from far fewer supporters.

Foreclosure data nationally is not yet available for the most recent quarter.  But there are major trouble signs. According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s latest available data, the number of initiated forbearance plans leaped from 165,431 in March to 989,594 in April. The Enterprises Foreclosure Prevention Actions completed 16,738 foreclosure prevention actions in April alone. Around 3.5% of all mortgages in the U.S. were delinquent by 30-59 days as of the end of April.

With many businesses now closed down for five months and others operating on only a a limited scale, the situation is only likely to get worse, particularly with federal aid running out.

During the last major recession, from 2007 to 2012, San Diego County alone had over 140,000 defaults on home mortgages, representing 12% of all housing units countywide.  More than 67,000 homes were sold in foreclosure sales in San Diego County during that period, according to data provided by Limon’s staff.

“There is no doubt that cutting unemployment benefits at the federal level will have an impact on Californians,” says Limon. “I think the month of September will be very difficult because we know that Congress isn’t going back until September.”

She adds, “We know from the California Judicial Council that eviction protections will basically end on September 1, so the Legislature is under pressure to start something because evictions could start September 2.  In a time of a pandemic, you’re talking about tenants being on the street. More people losing homes causes health problems and economic problems….Every month we continue to deal with the health pandemic, while small business owners and individuals continue to have a hard time.”

Despite the critical need, Limon acknowledges, “The bill is expected to be difficult every single step of the game…I can tell you that the Senate, the Assembly, and the Governor’s office are all involved in conversations related to tenants and mortgage forbearance.”

The bill is supported by consumer and renters’ groups, as well as the California Apartment Association. It is opposed by some Chambers of Commerce and the California Realtors Association as well as the banking industry.

If the bill makes it out of the Senate Judiciary committee, it would then to the Senate Appropriations Committee, followed by the full Senate, then back to the Assembly for an up-or-down concurrence vote.

Among San Diego’s legislative delegation, Assemblymembers Shirley Weber, Todd Gloria and Lorena Gonzalez voted in support on an earlier version of the mortgage protection measure, while Assemblymembers Randy Voepel and Marie Waldren voted against. Tasha Boerner Horvath and Brian Mainscheim did not vote.

If the measure makes it to the full state Senate, San Diego Senators Toni Atkins, Pat Bates, Ben Hueso and Brian Jones would have an opportunity to weigh in.

You can reach any of these legislators using the contact info on our website at https://www.eastcountymagazine.org/0809soundoff.

“The regular session of the Legislature ends August 30th. We will either do something about this, or we don’t. If we don’t, what happens to Californians in need?” Limon asks.  Those Californians can’t afford to wait until January, when the Legislature is slated to intervene, she concludes.  “There is an urgency to this.”

Miriam Raftery, editor and founder of East County Magazine, has over 35 years of journalism experience. She has won more than 350 journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Press Club, and the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Her honors include the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism and three James Julian awards for public interest reporting from SPJ’s San Diego chapter. She has received top honors for investigative journalism, multicultural reporting, coverage of immigrant and refugee issues, politics, breaking news and more. Thousands of her articles have appeared in national and regional publications.

East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the Facebook Journalism Project for its COVID-19 Relief Fund grant to support our local news reporting including impacts on vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more: #FacebookJournalismProject and https://www.facebook.com/fbjournalismproject/.

You can donate to support our local journalism efforts during the pandemic at https://www.EastCountyMedia.org/donate.

 

 

 



 


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