Fighting Foreclosure in the City of Homes

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Springfield City Council moved last week to establish stringent anti-foreclosure laws in the city. At its July 18 meeting, the Council voted unanimously in favor of two ordinances that would make it tougher for lenders to rush to foreclose on residences, and force them to take more responsibility for foreclosed properties once they're vacant. Supporters say the changes will help keep families from being left homeless, and spare neighborhoods the problems that come with having vacant homes on their blocks.

Under one of the ordinances, lenders cannot foreclose on a home without first participating in a city-facilitated mediation process and receiving a certificate verifying their "good faith participation" in the process. The mediation process will include discussion of loan modifications and possible forgiveness of debt. The program would be available to owners of single-family and multi-family houses, as long as the owner lives in the property and it has four or fewer units.

The second ordinance requires lenders looking to foreclose on a property to pay a $10,000 cash bond to help pay for the building to be secured and maintained. "The costs associated with foreclosed and vacant homes have a direct impact on both individual families and the city at large," the Springfield No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude coalition, which fights for people facing foreclosure and eviction, said in a release after the vote. "Families and communities are destroyed by the mass foreclosures being carried out by big banks, the city incurs significant costs to maintain these properties, and property values decline significantly throughout the city."

The Council vote followed a rally on the steps of City Hall organized by No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude. Last year, there were more foreclosures in Springfield than in any other municipality in the commonwealth.

The ordinances still need to pass two more Council votes.

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