Oakland leaders take foreclosure tour

May 8, 2008 12:23:44 AM PDT
Another consequence of the mortgage crisis arises in Oakland, and perhaps in other communities as well, it's being directly connected to a spike in neighborhood crime.

"They need to take and refinance the loans at fixed interest rate so we can afford to stay in our homes," said Fannie Brown.

Brown has lived in this south Oakland neighborhood for 40 years. Wednesday, she took Oakland city leaders for a tour around one block, and pointed out eight foreclosed homes. Morris Emanuel III has a home that is very close to becoming number nine.

"In the next two and a half weeks, I have to come up with $8,000 in order to save our house. So what am I supposed to do?" said Emanuel, an Oakland resident.

Neighbors say the abandoned homes have attracted homeless drug users and crime has gone up.

"They start pretending like it's their house, so they start going around the neighborhood and whatever they see, they take," said Edgar De La Cruz, a burglary victim.

And even though the homes are boarded up, neighbors say people still find a way to get inside.

The City of Oakland estimates there are at least 2,000 abandoned foreclosed homes in Oakland. A disproportionate number are in predominantly African-American neighborhoods. John Quigley Ph.D. is an expert in urban economics at U.C. Berkeley, who says banks should have a motive to keep the homes occupied.

"Between the time a property foreclosed and the time it is sold, the loss in value is as much as 40 percent," says Quigley.

That's also a loss in property tax revenue needed for city services. Community organizations are encouraging homeowners to seek counseling before foreclosure. Emanuel says he's going through counseling, but it's frustrating.

"We're going through a merry go round. It's good one day, then we have to talk to this person, and it takes us through the ringer, back and forth, and time is steadily passing," says Emanuel.

"The city would like to see legislation passed that provides homeowners more ability to negotiate modifications to loans to keep them in their homes longer," says Sean Rogan, from the Oakland Economic Development Agency.

Meanwhile, Emanuel says he's been contemplating desperate measures.

"I want to save my kids from being homeless, from living in the shelter, from us not having no where to go. What extent am I supposed to go to?"


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