Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team Battles City Council
Friday, August 23, 2013
The Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team (WAFT) has gone public with its frustration with Worcester's City Council's lack of progress on passage of a pre-foreclosure mediation ordinance.
The ordinance would require banks to appoint representatives with full power to make a deal to meet with homeowners in the early stages of foreclosure, and the bank representative would have to accept a loan modification offer unless he/she could be show that a foreclosure would make more economic sense for the bank.
WAFT's Jonathan Marien: "We are distressed."
"We are distressed that despite support from most of the City Councillors and the resolution of every problem we know of to its successful implementation, this measure is not moving forward," said WAFT organizer Jonathan Marien. "In Connecticut where this is the law, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of foreclosures and evictions. Worcester can't afford not to have such an ordinance on its books."
The letter WAFT sent to the City Councillors said in part: "As foreclosure auctions are returning to previous levels we write you deeply concerned about the delay in passage of the pre-foreclosure mediation ordinance. As some of us have spoken with close to every one of you and appreciate your ongoing support of our people and neighborhoods, we are concerned about inaction. As you know, we had a super majority of votes in April, but in the spirit of joint action and good faith, we asked the vote to be put on hold in April so we could work with the City Manager to ensure all concerns were addressed and implementation clarified. We have been periodically in touch with the City Manager’s office and the Solicitor and have provided contacts and resource people to address all concerns – we have been at meetings and have been available to anyone wishing to speak with us or wishing information. Apparently, at the 12th hour, concerns that have not been addressed to us and we have not been allowed to answer have been raised –even though we have offered every courtesy and been unfailingly available. We have already waited out of courtesy for four months."
Grace Ross counters City Solicitor's claim
Grace Ross, Lead Organizer for the Mass. Alliance Against Predatory Lending (MAAPL), dismissed City Solicitor Moore's claim that a nearly identical ordinance in Springfield was on hold due to legal challenges, saying "It was upheld by a federal judge on all counts and the Springfield City Council voted to reaffirm it and proceed; lawyers who defended Springfield are available to Worcester, and most of the startup and personnel details have been worked out. The program is designed to pay for itself, and the modest startup costs of the program would be recovered in fees within the first few months, so this is not a serious objection."
Senator Harriet Chandler, lead sponsor of the statewide Pre-Foreclosure Mandatory Mediation bill, wrote to the City Council urging them to not wait for state action, since the soonest it will pass the State Legislature is next summer.
Christeen Friend: auction levels are increasing
Foreclosure activist and former homeowner Christeen Friend said that In the meantime "in Worcester, auction levels are increasing – bringing us back to 100 households losing their opportunity to avoid foreclosure through mediation each month. This is 100 tragedies, most of which could be prevented, and represents a huge economic loss and damage to the fabric of our neighborhoods. The City Council has to act. This can't be allowed to go on when we have the tools to stop it so close to hand."
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