READER’S EDITORIAL: REFLECTIONS ON THE HOMEOWNER’S BILL OF RIGHTS

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By Grey Feathers
 
May 24, 2012 (San Diego)--Antonio and Africa have lived in this house for twelve years.  It is the only home their four children have ever known.  Antonio bought the house from Africa’s father in 2005. When faced with difficult financial hardship due to the crashed economy and medical bills, they went to their lender to negotiate in good faith.
 
Antonio works in construction and Africa has a business she runs from her home office. They were late on just one mortgage payment by 60 days, and ultimately made the payment. They learned there were government programs like the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and the Principal Reduction Alternative (PRA). 
 
 
Their lender initiated foreclosure while their request was still pending.  It’s been nearly three years of stalling, lost paperwork and more applications. In the mean time Antonio and Africa must keep current on their mortgage payments or face 72 hour eviction. 
 
The Bank is enforcing the letter-of-the-law to force them out of their home in spite of the fact that the family has paid for the house three times over in total monthly payments and down payment. 
 
Last Friday over five dozen neighbors, concerned citizens, community organizations and elected officials  gathered to stand with Antonio and Africa and to support the Homeowners Bill of Rights proposed by California’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris.
 
 
This Bill of Rights would be the first step toward holding the big banks accountable for crashing the economy and then profiting from the devastation that they caused.
 
The result of high foreclosure rates is not only the wreckage of this family and thousands more like them, but homeowners citywide have lost $19.2 billion dollars in equity and statewide, homeowners have lost an average of 40% of their homes’ values. Millions across the nation have lost their jobs and their homes after pouring hard earned money into high mortgage payments for years, only to have the banks throw them out at the first sign of trouble. 
 
The costs to the community are huge: homelessness, abandoned and deteriorating houses, increased law enforcement, lower home values, lost tax revenue for essentials like education and fire protection. 
 
Wall Street giants “created highly profitable new loan schemes, falsified loan documents and then knowingly passed on the risks by selling fraudulent loans to investors. Then they profited further by illegally foreclosing on families without due process” said Rafael Bautista a Real Estate Broker and member of Alliance of Californian’s for Community Empowerment. 
 
Chris Ward,  chief of staff for Assemblyman Marty Block representing the 78th District, spoke about the progress in the California Legislature to pass a package of bills to end foreclosure abuse. The Homeowners Bill of Rights (a package of 11 bills) would put a stop the practice of “Dual Tracking” where a bank initiates foreclosure while negotiating with the homeowner for modification. The bill would require lenders to produce evidence of ownership and reform the due process of the law to authorize borrowers to challenge unlawful commencement of foreclosure in court.
 
Lorena Gonzales from the San Diego, Imperial County Labor Council, pledged the support of Labor for the Homeowners Bill of Rights,saying that the bill would “impose a $10,000.00 civil penalty on the recording of ‘robo-signed’ documents.”  Defined as documents containing information that was not verified for accuracy by the person swearing to its veracity. 
 
Former Senator and current Congressional candidate Denise Ducheny was there to show her support and spoke comforting words to the beleaguered couple in Spanish. Denise is much-beloved in this Assembly District and her sincere concern was obvious. 
 
Congressman and Mayoral candidate Bob Filner was warmly greeted by the gathering. He spoke in Spanish and English. Filner has been a long-time champion for homeowners in distress. He has been a regular fixture at these kinds of gatherings. He spoke about his support for the Property Value Protection Ordinance, proposed by CPI (Center for Policy Initiatives) and ACCEthe Alliance of Californians for Community Empowermentwhich is aimed at reducing the negative impacts of foreclosures on surrounding neighborhoods and the city budget.   
(Preserve hyperlinks- Property Value Protection Ordinance and ACCE)
 
Filner said that most foreclosures are illegal. But working families struggling to keep their homes cannot afford to fight. He said that the City needed to provide an office of advocacy for homeowners to fight illegal foreclosure and said San Diego should “put money into homes not banks.”  Filner commended the crowd for helping their neighbors saying “we are all in this together.”  The gathering chanted “si se puede.”

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) with their bright yellow tee shirts were mostly from the neighborhood. Some of the younger ones told me they loved this family and played with their kids.

Personally, the foreclosure and eviction of this family is painful for me to watch. Like the making of sausage--bloody and ugly. There will be 54,000 projected foreclosures in the City of San Diego since 2008, by the end of 2012. The Big Banks are sucking the life out of the neighborhoods and all too often, speculators purchase these properties to turn a quick profit. More ugly sausage.
 
I'm outraged by the injustice of it all and proud of those who stood by this family when the deck is so heavily stacked against them. But there is something we can do. Find out which of your representatives supports the Homeowners Bill of Rigths and vote for them on June 6th and in November.
 

Grey Feathers describes himself as “a renegade Indian who has strayed far from the reservation.” The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of its author and donot necessarily reflect the views of East CountyMagazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org.