Expanded Blight Measure Moves Forward

More protections for tenants living in foreclosed properties

The Oakland City Council unanimously passed a measure on Tuesday night, expanding the Foreclosed Property Registration and Maintenance Ordinance to now include tenants.

The proposal was introduced by a coalition of housing, labor and community groups including: Causa Justa :: Just Cause,  Alameda County Public Health Department’s Place Matters, California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC), Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) and the Service Employees International Union Local 1021.

The additional add-on’s to the existing law will require:
•    lenders to keep utilities on for tenants living in foreclosed properties,
•    require banks to maintain foreclosed properties that tenants live in,
•    conduct monthly inspections of NOD (Notice of Default) and foreclosed properties,
•    banks will be required to register homes in a city blight database the moment they send homeowners a Notice of Default.
•    Banks will to do monthly inspections of NOD and foreclosed properties and gauge whether the home is occupied.
•    If not occupied, the bank would now have to pay a $568 annual registration fee and maintain the vacant property.
•     If it is occupied the bank would have to use a local certified property management firm. It also will set-aside fees from penalty funds for foreclosure prevention activities.

This is in addition to the existing FPRM ordinance which makes big banks clean up vacant and blighted properties and fines them $1,000 per day for not doing so. This has so far brought in $1.6 million in fees and penalties to Oakland.

The expansion of the ordinance accomplishes a policy recommendation put forth in
a report by CJJC and the Alameda County Public Health Department documenting the health and the housing crisis: “31% of tenants in foreclosed buildings reported they are now living in unhealthy places where there are substandard conditions like mold, rodents, and cockroaches.”  (//www.cjjc.org/downloads/CJJC_PublicHealth_FINAL.pdf)

CJJC member, Rosie C. has lived in her apartment since 1998. The apartment was foreclosed on and bought last May.  The new owners, one of the big banks, have allowed the apartment to deteriorate. She is living with a faulty heater that has caused the walls to crack, dry rot in the bathroom, roof water leaks, lack of proper insulation in the entire unit creating mold and mildew, and a host of other habitability issues. Rosie C. is 72 years old.

Tuesday night’s vote by the Oakland City Council to expand the ordinance assures that tenants like Rosie C. are  better positioned to stand up to Big Banks and their agents.

While 99% of the people who lined up to speak urged council members to approve the expanded measure, Paul Junge, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce official told council members that 80%of the homes in Oakland are only “serviced” by the banks but held by other agencies “such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

Councilmember Jane Brunner, who sponsored the ordinance said, “If you don’t want to be in the servicing business — get out of it.”

CJJC thanks our partners, allies and supporters who have worked so hard to make this happen.

The expanded ordiinance goes back before the council for final passage in June.

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