OAKLAND, Calif. - A new initiative bringing together local, state and federal resources to help stem the tide of foreclosures devastating Oakland neighborhoods is poised for launch.
Mayor Jean Quan and other elected officials announced the move at an Oct. 9 press conference here. Later that day, the City Council's Community and Economic Development Committee approved the plan, which will go before the full council Oct. 16.
Calling the new initiative "an effort and a lot of heart by this community and our allies - neighborhood advocates, nonprofit groups, legislators - who have worked especially hard to stabilize neighborhoods," Quan said the program will especially "help people who are low income and have really been hurt" by the financial crisis.
Several Oakland residents impacted by the foreclosures, which have struck working-class neighborhoods of color hardest, shared their stories.
Lifelong Oaklander Yvonne Stanford, a member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), told what happened when her seriously ill sister faced foreclosure. After a very long struggle and many setbacks, the sister finally won a loan modification and principal reduction, with ACCE's help.
Homeowners are not the only people affected by foreclosure. Kim Shanklin, another longtime Oaklander and Causa Justa/Just Cause member, and her family had their water cut off when the owner of the duplex where they lived went into foreclosure. "With Just Cause supporting my fight, together we kept the water on and I was able to stay in my home, Shanklin said. "From that point on, I vowed I would continue to do this work so families in our communities will know their rights and will be able to stay in their homes."
The initiative will bring together resources of the Keep Your Home California program using federal TARP funds, the state attorney generals' bank settlement agreement and the new Homeowner's Bill of Rights. It will include community outreach and referral services, homeowner and tenant counseling services, legal advocacy, and a new pilot program to help some homeowners have their mortgages reset at current market value.
Legislators at city, state and national levels also shared the platform.
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, whose district includes Oakland, told how she and other Democrats in Congress saw the foreclosure crisis coming, as they fought unsuccessfully to prevent deregulation of the banking industry. In turn, she said, they fought to include neighborhood stabilization grants in the new Dodd-Frank banking regulations, to promote redevelopment of foreclosed and abandoned homes in the hardest-hit areas.
Lee drew laughter and applause as she told of buying her first home in Oakland for less than $20,000 years ago. "I don't know how I got the down payment," she said, "but I knew that was the only way to be in the middle class. That home helped me to get my kids through college and they are taking care of their own families now."
"A lot of work lies ahead in tackling this foreclosure crisis," Lee said, looking around the room," but with these organizations and activists and people here, I know we're going to have the relief to people in my district and around the nation, that they deserve."
From 2007 to 2011, some 10,000 homes, or about one in 14, were foreclosed in Oakland. African Americans and Latinos were specially targeted for dangerous subprime mortgages.
Besides ACCE and Just Cause, a long list of government agencies, community and religious organizations, banks and others are partnering in Oakland's new effort.
Photo: Jacob Ruff // CC 2.0