The collapse of the housing market has hit California hard - much harder than other states. As the chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing, I am most concerned with the plight of homeowners who are fighting to keep their homes. Theirs is an arduous struggle.
Earlier this month, the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing held a hearing that brought together a variety of housing advocates, industry experts, and economists to give their projections of the housing market in the months ahead. While there are signs of improvement, we still have a long way to go. Below are some of the key findings that came out of the hearing:
- Home ownership is declining and expected to drop to 1984 levels by 2020 (62% nationally and 55% in California).
- Housing supply still exceeds demand.
- Only 35% of current home sellers are planning on repurchasing.
- The most common reason for selling a home is foreclosure/short sale/default (30%) compared to a change in family status (15%).
These findings highlight the fact that due in part to the stagnant housing market many Californians are moving from owning a home to renting. Too many people are upside down in their mortgage. Many of these people are discovering that, for them, it just makes more sense to pay rent than to pay a mortgage.
In mid-February, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced California's $18 billion settlement with five of the largest mortgage lenders who engaged in financial misconduct related to foreclosure processing and mortgage servicing. The financial institutions involved in the settlement are Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial (formerly GMAC).
The settlement means that homeowners who are facing foreclosure or who are underwater on their mortgages are potentially eligible for a variety of benefits including refinancing and principal reduction. Additionally, homeowners who were foreclosed upon may receive payments estimated at $1,500 to $2,000 each.
Homeowners should contact their mortgage servicer to see if they are eligible for relief through this settlement. To help answer additional questions, or if a homeowner believes that he or she may have been defrauded, the Attorney General's office has set up this site, with information in both English and Spanish.
Additionally, the Legislature recently introduced the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, a package of bills that works to curb the most abusive loan servicing practices. These bills, sponsored by Attorney General Kamala Harris, are intended to guarantee basic standards of fairness in the mortgage process, including an end to dual-track foreclosures, transparency in the mortgage process, community tools to prevent blight after banks foreclose on a home, and tenant protections after a foreclosure.
I am authoring one of the bills in the package because our office knows first-hand how grave the foreclosure situation really is. Our office receives dozens of calls each week from frustrated homeowners who are getting the run around from their banks. Homeowners find themselves being passed between multiple bank employees, who often provide the same information over and over again. They have to explain their financial hardship or discuss unique financial circumstances to multiple people only to be told that they can't help them and they will be transferred to somebody else. That is why I am authoring SB 1471, which will require that lenders and mortgage servicers provide homeowners with a single point of contact so that homeowners know who to call when trying to keep their homes. We have also instituted the practice in our office by assigning one staff person to be responsible for handling all of our foreclosure inquiries.
Last month, my office hosted a Foreclosure Prevention Seminar in Antioch. More than 300 people attended the seminar, which provided critical information about the foreclosure process, loan modifications, tax liability, debt forgiveness, state and federal assistance programs, as well as how to get help. This event brought to life the devastation that foreclosure causes in our communities and was a sobering reminder we must keep working vigilantly to assist homeowners struggling to keep their homes.
Panelists included representatives from a wide variety of state agencies, including: California Department of Corporations, Keep Your Home California, California Housing Finance Agency, and Franchise Tax Board. Additionally, the panel featured two HUD approved housing counselors and the executive director of Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, a local legal aid organization.
We have a lot of work ahead of us in bringing California's housing market back to good health. But we are hopeful that the efforts described above will help. If we can be of any service to you on housing or other issues, please contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (925) 942-6082.
Senate District Seven
Featured In March's E-Newsletter
- Metropolitan Transportation Commission - Voice Your Opinion on the Move of MTC's Headquarters
- SB 1388 - When Parking Meters Don't Work, Motorists Should Not Get a Ticket
- How will the Federal Affordable Care Act Affect You? - Health Care Policy Town Hall
Metropolitan Transportation Commission - Voice Your Opinion on the Move of MTC's Headquarters
Last month I introduced Senate Bill 1545 to prohibit the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) from spending any additional public funds on the relocation of MTC's headquarters. MTC is the regional agency responsible for addressing major transportation issues in the Bay Area. This includes setting bridge tolls through the Bay Area Toll Authority, a branch of MTC.
MTC is using money collected from bridge tolls to move its office headquarters from downtown Oakland to downtown San Francisco. MTC states they are doing this to allow office consolidation with other regional agencies. MTC has purchased a building in San Francisco at a price of more than $90 million. MTC also plans to spend another $70 - $80 million on tenant improvements and retrofitting of the new building. This proposed move could cost Bay Area motorists upwards of $160 million in bridge toll revenues.
After concerns were raised, the Legislature asked the State Auditor to investigate whether MTC has the authority to spend bridge toll revenues for such purposes. Even with the audit pending, MTC went ahead and bought the building and approved funding for the first stage of improvements. The audit is scheduled to be completed by June.
SB 1545 would prohibit any additional moneys from being spent until after an audit is completed by the State Auditor and all issues raised in that audit (if any) are resolved. SB 1545, an urgency measure which would take effect immediately upon signature of the Governor, would apply to MTC, the Bay Area Toll Authority, and to the Bay Area Headquarters Authority (BAHA). BAHA was created by MTC to make all decisions related to the move of the MTC headquarters.
BAHA has already spent $93,000,000 to acquire the building, an old post office at 390 Main Street in San Francisco. Last December, BAHA voted to spend an additional $1,000,000 for "architectural and engineering services" for the new building. Additionally, BAHA approved another $140,000 annually for "property management services." All of these decisions were made even though an audit is pending.
We would like your opinion of MTC's proposed move. Do you think this is a good idea? Do you believe your bridge tolls should be spent on an office building? Please go to my website to participate in a public opinion survey on this issue.
SB 1388 - When Parking Meters Don't Work, Motorists Should Not Get a Ticket
Have you ever tried to put money in a parking meter and found it broken? What is a motorist supposed to do in this situation? Put a note on the window explaining that the meter does not work? Move to another space? Park there anyway and hope for the best?
Well, AAA (AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah and the Automobile Club of Southern California) is getting more and more complaints from members who are getting ticketed in such situations. AAA reports that member complaints are on the rise as meter technology is changing and ticket fines are getting bigger.
In response to this situation, I am authoring Senate Bill 1388, sponsored by AAA, to allow motorists to park at broken parking meters for the posted time limit without getting a ticket. The premise of this bill is straightforward - motorists should not have to wonder whether it is OK to park at a broken meter and for how long.
This is a simple matter of fairness for the public. Motorists should be entitled to park in open parking spaces for the allotted time period, even if the meter is broken, unless they are clearly notified otherwise that they will be subjected to a parking ticket.
Motorists don't know what to do when they find they've parked at a broken meter. That's because rules change from city to city and they aren't always posted. SB 1388 fixes this problem by simply allowing drivers to park at broken meters (up to the posted time limit) and making clear what the rules are so motorists are not unfairly ticketed.
How will the Federal Affordable Care Act Affect You? - Health Care Policy Town Hall
My office will be holding a Health Care Policy Town Hall in San Ramon on Thursday, March 29th, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. It will be located at the California High School Theater, 9870 Broadmoor Drive, San Ramon, 94583.
I invite you to attend to learn how California is working with federal officials to ensure that the state receives the resources and flexibility it needs to deliver on the promise of expanded coverage, affordability and improved health outcomes. Come to learn more from the following key officials:
- Herb Schultz, Region IX Director of the United States Department of Health and Human Services
- Diana Dooley, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency
- Brent Barnhart, Director of the California Department of Managed Health Care
Please visit my website to RSVP for this event. Should you have any questions, please contact my Walnut Creek District Office at (925) 942-6082.