It’s been more than two years since the City Council approved unanimously a pair of ordinances designed to address the problems caused by the high number of foreclosures in the city. But the regulations still haven’t gone into effect.
So this evening, a group of protestors will rally outside City Hall prior to the City Council meeting to call on the Sarno administration to implement the ordinances.
“We’re tired of our government officials refusing to implement laws that have been passed with the will of the people,” Ruth Clements, a city resident, said in a press release from Springfield No One Leaves/ Nadie Se Mude, the anti-foreclosure group that was instrumental in the ordinances’ passing. “I’m seriously questioning what Mayor Sarno’s priorities are. The city council is considering giving him a raise, but I think he should implement the ordinances first.”
The Council will take up a proposal at tonight’s meeting to increase the mayor’s salary from $95,000 to $135,000 a year.
One of the ordinances requires mortgage lenders to participate in a city-facilitated mediation process to determine whether property owners who can afford market-rate mortgages, or were fraudulently foreclosed on, can stay in their homes; banks that refuse to mediate could be fined. The second requires a lender who has foreclosed on a home to put up a $10,000 bond to ensure that it will maintain the vacant property, rather than let it fall into disrepair.
The Mass. Bankers Association had challenged the ordinances in court. But in 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Ponsor upheld them, finding that the Springfield Law Department had “made a sufficient showing that the Foreclosure Ordinance was necessary to protect a basic societal interest, was tailored appropriately to that purpose, and imposed reasonable conditions.”
No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude says the has lost as much as $25.3 million by the administration’s failure to implement the regulations: $4.76 million in the required cash bonds and $20.6 million in fines that could have been leveled against banks for refusing to participate in mediation. The group added that it has “sent repeated letters and e-mails to the Mayor and offered technical support with implementation of the ordinances. The city, however, has not responded to [our] inquiries and offers.”
“These ordinances could keep people in their homes and bring in money for the city to restore services like libraries and schools,” Candejah Pink, a member of SNOL/NSM, said in the release. “I want to know why Mayor Sarno won’t do these things that are so simple and would help so many people.”
After SNOL/NSM announced its planned rally, Sarno’s office issued a statement saying his administration “has worked tirelessly on the implementation” of the ordinances, including defending them in court.
“The City has just completed the necessary internal operational details for a successful implementation and will bring this important issue before the City Council at their next regularly scheduled meeting on October 21, 2013 for approval,” Sarno’s statement continued. “I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to get us where we are today; including Springfield No One Leaves, who has been a tireless advocate for the residents of Springfield.”