Last evening a group of individuals and organizations from Worcester to Merrimack Valley to the South Shore met at Revere City Hall, joined by Revere Mayor Thomas G. Ambrosino, to urge the MA House of Representatives to pass H4595, An Act to Stabilize Neighborhoods, often called the "anti-foreclosure bill."
Why a Vigil Now and in Revere?
With two weeks left to the current legislative session, and unanimous passage of a Senate version of this bill, people do not want to wait any longer for foreclosure assistance. Every month means more homeowners and tenants face eviction. Many claim that House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who represents Revere and the rest of the Nineteenth District, has blocked the bill from moving to the House floor. The bill was favorably referred out of the Joint Committee on Housing and sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means back in April -- a committee that DeLeo chaired before becoming House Speaker. Current Chair is Charles Murphy.
Organized and attend by tenants, homeowners, and organizations such as City Life/Vida Urbana, Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending (MAAPL), and Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), the public meeting/vigil attracted the eye of many passers-by, some of whom admitted to a sense of unease for their own neighborhoods even if their own homes were not in jeopardy. Foreclosures turn banks into landlords and homeowners. The result often is a tenant eviction, through no fault of the tenant, and an empty house that gets vandalized or used/abused by those with no right to be there. With so many homes in foreclosure, these become abandoned properties that can devalue all the homes and increase crime in a neighborhood. Communities lose good homeowners and good tenants. Homes in these neighborhoods "automatically decrease in value by 1% and ... local housing prices by as much as 5.7%."**
Completed Foreclosures in May 2010 were Double the Number for May 2009!*
For anyone who claims that foreclosure prevention programs are "doing the job," the actual number of foreclosures in Massachusetts tell another story. Year-to-date foreclosures increased a whopping 48% compared to the same period in 2009, and auctions posted for May 2010 were more than double those in May 2009. This is a scary situation that is getting worse, not better.
Unemployment Increases the Risk
With Congress stalling on unemployment extensions while more and more homeowners face mortgage payments they cannot make, both homeowners and tenants are at risk. H4595 could provide the relief that makes the difference, which is why it is described as "legislation to stabilize neighborhoods."
H4595 Helps Homeowners, Tenants, and Banks
Information prepared by UMASS Boston, McCormack Center for Social Policy points out that this bill works for everyone affected by foreclosures and the spillover effects of soaring foreclosure rates. Remember, the Massachusetts Senate has already unanimously passed a similar bill, S2394.
Former MAAPL Coordinator Grace Ross, a recent candidate for Governor of Massachusetts, recorded her reflections on the vigil and the issue and sent it to me for inclusion in this post. I've added some slides to her audio recording and hope you'll take time to learn more about the problem and then call your state representative. Urge him or her to demand that Speaker DeLeo present H4595 for a vote. There's not much time left, so do it today!
You may want to press the "full screen" button in the lower right corner of the video screen for some of the slides.
*Figures provided by MAAPL
**UMASS Boston, McCormack Center for Social Policy, June 2010