SEC Spring Quarterly Meeting - March 12th -The Foreclosure Crisis: Opportunities for a New Economy

The spring quarterly meeting, “The Foreclosure Crisis: Opportunities for a New Economy,” brought together advocates from various sectors to share strategies and campaigns addressing the foreclosure crisis in the Bay Area. There were 40 individuals, including grassroots organizers, policy advocates, bank representatives, local planning commissioners, and city staff representing a variety of organizations and sectors. The goal of the meeting was to increase shared knowledge about strategies and solutions that will not only support the region’s most compromised communities in responding to this crisis, but will also allow community groups and public sector allies to leverage the financial climate to advance economic justice.

The effects of the foreclosure crisis are not only hurting the families that are being devastated by losing their homes, but also leading to the breakdown of communities as a result of blighted properties, increased crime rates and damage to social services and support networks. Discriminatory banking practices and subprime lending led to the foreclosure crisis and current financial climate. Unfortunately, as the economy rebounds, banks are bouncing back to their old ways that disenfranchise and deny access to low-income communities and communities of color. While bonus checks are being written and banks are having record quarterly earnings, loan modifications are not being processed to prevent foreclosures and keep families in their homes. If it’s possible, it has also become increasingly difficult for individuals from low income communities and communities of color to access first time homeownership opportunities.

Families, communities and local governments continue to struggle to overcome the financial meltdown. Patrick Lynch, the Director of Housing and Community Development for the City of Richmond, highlighted how local governments and redevelopment agencies have been crippled by the foreclosure and financial crises through a decrease in revenue from the state and federal governments, a dwindling tax base, and the State’s raid of local redevelopment funds to balance the general fund deficit. As a result, the programs in place to support affordable housing, first time home ownership programs, and to help families facing foreclosures stay in their homes, have stalled. Local governments are looking to advocacy groups and non-profits to offer both the support and social services to that are no longer provided by the city.

We heard from Sheryl Lane of The Richmond Economic Development Initiative (REDI), a collaborative of non-profits and advocacy and faith based organizations that promotes policies and planning practices to ensure that current and future development of Richmond benefits low-income, low wealth residents and communities of color. She presented REDI’s recent housing campaign that has utilized the foreclosure crisis as an opportunity to engage the city around supporting REDI’s housing platform that centers on Keeping Families in Their Homes, Revitalizing Neighborhoods and Creating Long Term Sustainability for Affordable Housing. In addition to the housing platform, REDI worked to have a just cause ordinance passed to protect tenants living in properties that are being foreclosed and to increase Richmond’s code enforcement of blighted homes.

Adam Kruggel, from Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organizations, facilitated a discussion that allowed participants to share current efforts taking place to address foreclosures and the larger financial crisis. Strategies and campaigns ranged from grassroots organizing to save and reclaim foreclosed properties to local, statewide and national legislation to prevent foreclosures and hold banks more accountable. Campaigns and strategies included:

  • A foreclosure crisis hotline for tenants
  • Foundation support for organizations combating foreclosures and providing support services for families dealing with foreclosure
  • Leveraging private capital and socially responsible investments to purchase foreclosed homes and make them accessible to low-income families
  • Capitalizing on state and federal legislation, policies, and programs such as Senate Bill 1137, the call for finance reform and increased oversight and the Home Affordable Modification Program
  • Creating green jobs and economic growth opportunities through the rehabbing of foreclosed properties
  • Drawing attention to Banks that refuse to work with homeowners to prevent foreclosures before they happen and keep families in their homes

There are opportunities that have yet to be fully capitalized on with the potential to change the national paradigm of how banks and financial systems operate, and result in economic justice for low-income communities and communities of color. This quarterly meeting allowed participants to hear about the amazing work that is taking place throughout the region and the state, so that they could learn from each other, be inspired, identify opportunities to align strategies, and form the partnerships necessary to capitalize on the opportunities, that have come out of this crisis, to ensure economic justice for the communities that we care about. 
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