Oakland Adopts a Comprehensive Foreclosure Prevention Package
On October 16, the Oakland City Council approved a Comprehensive Foreclosure Prevention Package. The package includes door to door outreach to roughly 3,500 residents in risk of foreclosure. Residents in foreclosed properties will be referred to housing counselors and have access to legal assistance and a city team that will help advocate on behalf of borrowers to the bank. Tenants and homeowners will also learn about the rights that they have as a result of the passage of the Homeowners Bill of Rights and the Attorney General’s settlement. One of the most innovative parts of the plan is a pilot program called ROOT that will buy back homes for borrowers facing foreclosure and restructure the loans to be fixed rate and affordable.
The package was officially announced a week earlier in a press briefing by Mayor Jean Quan, Congressperson Barbara Lee and State Assembly person Nancy Skinner. This package is the culmination of a partnership among community organizations, service providers and the city of Oakland. Community organization in the Bay Area have been pushing for local strategies coming from the city to hold banks accountable and help keep people in their homes and this package is a good example of that.
Many groups elsewhere have offered pieces of a program like this, but Oakland is a leader in creating a comprehensive package to help threatened homeowners. Another leader in this area and a model for parts of Oakland’s package is the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA); their “Save the Dream Tour” included week-long events in different cities to help distressed homeowners negotiate with the banks.
Activists with Occupy San José (OSJ) hope to help other organizations create political pressure for similar Comprehensive Foreclosure Prevention Packages elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area. OSJ and the Green Party of Santa Clara County organized a Foreclosure Summit, Sept. 15, 2012, attended by roughly 50 people. The program focused on three key elements of foreclosure prevention: financial literacy, legal and political action. Project Sentinel’s work in financial literacy was cited as making an important contribution to decreasing victimization of homeowners. Thomas Spielbauer discussed his work as an attorney representing distressed homeowners. CJ Holmes, founder of Homeowners for Justice, discussed what had been done politically and continuing needs.
Spencer Graves, lead organizer for the Summit, outlined the need for something like the comprehensive foreclosure prevention package just passed by Oakland. This includes a need to recruit volunteers to contact distressed homeowners, as Oakland is preparing to do. Graves further mentioned the San Francisco Foreclosure Audit, which “identified what appear to be one or more clear violations of law” in 84 percent of the 382 foreclosures studied. If 84 percent of foreclosures anywhere involve clear violations of law, it suggests massive lawlessness on the part of major financial institutions. William K. Black, professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri – Kansas City and a lead litigator during the Savings and Loan crisis of 20 years ago, says we have effectively decriminalized elite financial fraud. This suggest a need for a system that will identify evidence of fraud and make that available to distressed homeowners and prosecutors. Without it, our current system of dealing with foreclosures seems to be one more example of crony capitalism, reviled by both the right and the left in the US today.
 City of Oakland Office of the City Clerk, “Concurrent Meeting of the Oakland Redevelopment Successor Agency and the City Council 10/16/2012″, Meeting Details regarding File # 12-0070 on “Foreclosure Prevention/Mitigation Activities” in attachment “View Report.pdf”; “http://oakland.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx“
 “Homeowner Bill of Rights”, occupy.pbworks.com, “http://occupy.pbworks.com/w/page/54691519/Homeowner%20Bill%20of%20Rights “.
 “Mayor Unveils Plan to Alleviate Oakland Foreclosure Crisis”. KQED. “www.kqed.org/news/story/2012/10/09/109172/mayor_unveils_plan_to_alleviate_oakland_foreclosure_crisis?category=economy“.
 “Home Ownership Foreclosure Prevention”, Working Solutions, “http://tmcworkingsolutions.org/category/business-resources/foreclosure-prevention
 Wikipedia, “Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neighborhood_Assistance_Corporation_of_America