Clergy, homeowners, labor unions and groups from around California rallied at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Monday to call for and lawmakers to halt all home foreclosures.
An estimated 350 people participated, said David Madriz, 42, with the California Housing Advocates. The California Homeowner Bill of Rights, sponsored by state Attorney General Kamala Harris is expected to be voted on this week, and is a package of legislation to help residential property owners and renters avoid becoming homeless.
The bill of rights grows out of the National Mortgage Settlement that states’ attorneys general reached with the Federal Government and the U.S.’s largest mortgage lenders, including Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. The bill of rights includes Senate Bill 900 by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).
SB 900, the Foreclosure Reduction Act, would in part address “foreclosure irregularities” that involve major banks servicing mortgages for distressed homeowners in California. One foreclosure irregularity is the practice of “robo-signing” loan paperwork whereby mortgage lenders have forged signatures of homeowners.
Brian Scaccia, 55, an unemployed paralegal in Davis, took part in Monday’s protest.
“We need to pass Sen. Leno’s bill,” Scaccia said. “I’ve been doing foreclosure counseling for four years and have seen many people losing their homes.”
John Shaban, 43, a union painter with SEIU Local 1021 is facing a layoff this Saturday by his Sacramento City Unified School District employer. Shaban owns a home in Fair Oaks with his wife and their two kids, ages six and seven. Shaban said the Bank of America, which services the Shaban mortgage, has refused to adjust the interest rate on their 2006 loan (originally with Countrywide Mortgage) to reflect the home’s plunge in market value from $330,000, now appraised at $165,000, and for the family to avoid foreclosure, he said.
“This will be the last month that we’re able to pay our mortgage unless the governor signs the CHBOR,” Shaban said.
SB 900 would ensure that Shaban has a single point of contact with mortgage lenders to avoid what he termed a “run-around” with Bank of America from Nov. 8, 2011, to June 7, detailed on a two-page spreadsheet that he shared with Patch. Shaban stood with Monday’s anti-foreclosure protesters at 2 p.m. outside the governor’s office inside the Capitol to call for him to support a statewide moratorium on home foreclosures.
The practice of robo-signing can and has led to a rash of home foreclosures, said . A Carmichael attorney and Occupy candidate, Kravitz, 50, ran against incumbent for a seat on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors in District 3 and earlier this month. He spoke at Monday’s rally.
The board of supervisors could vote to endorse a state foreclosure moratorium, Kravitz said. To this end, the county recorders office could do a better job of verifying the legality of all foreclosure documents, he said. The district attorney’s office could also prosecute mortgage servicers that allegedly defraud homeowners, Kravitz added.
Sacramento County had 3,797 notices of default in January-March 2011 compared with 3,464 for January-March 2012, an 8.8 percent fall, according to DataQuick in San Diego. Yolo County had 322 notices of default recorded in January-March 2011 versus 277 for January-March 2012, a 14 percent decline. There were 933 notices in Placer County for the first quarter of 2011 compared with 735 in the first quarter of 2012, a 21.2 percent drop.
Asked why he helped to organize Monday’s anti-foreclosure rally, Carmichael resident and Occupy Sacramento activist Bob Saunders took a page from U.S. history.
“We know that in 1933 (during the Great Depression) many states’ governors initiated foreclosure moratoriums to help hard-working homeowners stay in their homes,” he said. “We’re calling for a three-year foreclosure moratorium while government office and banks work out the issues and problems around illegal evictions that lack original mortgage documents.”
Bakari Chavanu, 54, a photographer and writer in Elk Grove, participated in Monday’s rally as part of Occupy Sacramento. A co-sponsor of the protest, though his home is not in foreclosure, Chavanu said inside the Capitol rotunda.
Dustin Hobbs is a spokesman for the California Mortgage Bankers Association. Asked for a comment on possible impacts of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights on the real estate industry, he said that though the legislation will probably pass, his association remains opposed to it as an overly broad and poorly targeted measure that will harm borrowers and lenders by increasing costs and prolonging the state’s economic recovery.
The California Homeowner Bill of Rights is also opposed by the following groups: the California Bankers Association, California Chamber of Commerce, California Financial Services Association, California Mortgage Association, Civil Justice Association of California, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and United Trustees Association.
The state Legislature is likely to vote in early July on the bill of rights before lawmakers depart for a summer break.
What do you think of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights? Do you agree with the protestors? Tell us in a comment below.