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Anti-foreclosure movement 'makes history'

Date: 7/9/2012

July 9, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — Advocates of the city's anti-foreclosure ordinances that were passed last year formally presented a letter to Mayor Domenic Sarno on July 5 asking him to implement them after a favorable ruling in District Court.

The Massachusetts Banking Association and six local banks had brought suit over the ordinance. U.S District Judge Michael A. Ponsor wrote in is his order on July 3, "The modest effort made by the city to soften this crisis through the promulgation of the two ordinances violates no Constitutional provision or state statute."

At a press conference on the steps of City Hall, former City Councilor Amaad Rivera, who led the fight for the ordinances, said, "We made history today."

One ordinance requires financial institutions that own vacant or foreclosed properties in the city to provide a $10,000 cash-bond for each property. The bond would be used to cover the cost of maintaining properties if the owners neglect them.

Rivera said if the banks maintain the property they are returned the bulk of the bond once the property is sold. He said the "sad truth" is that most of the large banks are "very irresponsible" with the properties they own.

"The taxpayers have been on the hook [with maintaining these properties]," he said.

The other part of the ordinance stipulates there must be a mediation process between the property owners and the holder of the mortgage to allow those who can afford a market rate mortgage or were fraudulently foreclosed upon to stay in their homes.

Rivera stressed the ordinance does not impede the foreclosure process.

Malcolm Chu of Springfield No One Leaves said his organization had worked closely with the City Council and the Law Department in the creation of the ordinance and said it was understandable the city would hold off on implementation until the lawsuit had been settled. He said he hoped the working relationship with the Law Department would continue.

Chu wrote Sarno, "There are no more roadblocks or reason not to implement this ordinance. No more reasons not to hold the banks responsible and financially accountable for the crisis they created. These ordinances both mitigate the impact of foreclosure crisis and raise much-needed revenue for the city budget."

Chu predicted in a press release there would be a new wave of foreclosures following a settlement between the 50 state attorney generals and the five largest mortgage holders.

David Dunhill, a member of the Springfield Bank Tenants Association, said he wished the ordinance had been in place several years ago when he lost his home through foreclosure.

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