Supervisors hope to halt foreclosures with new resolution

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PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER D. COOK

John Avalos introduced a resolution today urging support for homeowners facing foreclosure in San Francisco. The resolution calls for several actions, including suspending all foreclosures until state and federal measures to protect homeowners are in place.

Sponsors of the resolution Avalos, David Chiu, Jane Kim, Eric Mar, and Christina Olague joined a coalition of community organizations to explain the resolution at a press conference.

The resolution would call for support of a statewide Homeowners Bill of Rights, a series of bills that would address predatory loans and robosigning, as well as California Attorney General Kamala Harris's campaign for a statewide suspension on foreclosures in properties controled by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It also “urges all city and county officials and departments to work proactively to ensure that San Francisco residents do not fall victim to unlawful foreclosure practices,” as Avalos explained.

Supervisors cited a report released in February by Assessor Phil Ting as one of the reasons for the resolution. The report found “irregularities” in 99 percent of foreclosure documents in San Francisco between 2009 and 2011, and “what appear to be one or more clear violations of the law” in 84 percent of cases. 

The resolution's language also names "predatory banking practices that disproportionately targeted racial and ethnic minority communities, especially working class African Americans and Latinos" as an impetus for the resolution, noting that “from 2007 to 2008, Wells Fargo, and mortgage lenders it has since acquired, was 188 percent more likely to put African American borrowers and 117 percent more likely to put Latino borrowers into higher-cost, subprime loans.”

“What we see around foreclosures is that we have a systemic problem,” said Campos. Over 1,000 homes in San Francisco are currently in the process of foreclosure, 

Supervisor Kim connected the issue to another systemic problem affecting San Francisco, that has been a recent topic of discussion at City Hall: family flight. 

“We do have many low-income families that are actually homeowners in the city, primarily in the southeast sector. But how they afford to buy homes is by squeezing often two to three families in these homes in the southeast. So we’re talking about not just one household when we foreclose on a home, we’re often talking about two, three families with multiple youth and seniors,” said Kim.

“This is something that has been an important issue for many of our supervisors across the political spectrum, is how to retain families in San Francisco. Stopping foreclosure has to be a key part of that.” 

A few supervisors congratulated community organizers for focusing on the foreclosure crisis.

“I want to thank Occupy Bernal for not only shedding light on what’s happening in Bernal Heights, but realizing that the foreclosure crisis that we’re facing is something that involves all of us. Every single neighborhood,” said Campos.

The resolution was introduced to the Board of Supervisors March 20. It will be discussed further at the Land Use and Economic Development committee meeting April 2. 

If it eventually passes the Board of Supervisors, the resolution will be non-binding; a citywide foreclosure moratorium is likely not imminent. Yet many supporters expressed urgency and commitment for city action to address foreclosures. 

“When speaking with the sheriff about how we can stop evictions, what struck me most was he said that sometimes when we walk into these homes, we’ve found that people have committed suicide before the sheriffs even come in,” said Supervisor Kim. “This is a life and death issue for many of our residents.”

 

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