GOP, Dems fighting foreclosures together

April 2, 2008 6:28:39 PM PDT
A new proposa is designed to help millions of families threatened by foreclosure and to increase demand for housing. It's the kind of attention that could help cities like Antioch and Pittsburg, both hard hit by foreclosures.

Republicans and Democrats locked themselves behind doors on Capitol Hill for two days.

They admit, what they crafted isn't everything each side wanted, but it's the first sign of hope for many families facing foreclosure in the Bay Area and across the country.

"This is a crisis that we have. The only way it's going to be solved is working together," says Nevada Senator Harry Reid.

Senate Democrats and Republicans stood side-by-side, vowing to quit bickering and to solve the mortgage crisis.

"This gives us a maximum chance of demonstrating to the American public that we can deal with an important issue on a bipartisan basis quickly," says Kentucky Senator Sen. Mitch McConnell.

And to those on the front line, like the foreclosure counselors in Contra Costa County, it's about time.

"They should act fast.... like yesterday," says Pacific Community Services counselor Elaine Brooks-Cox.

The bipartisan plan calls for $100 million dollars to expand counseling to families facing foreclosure and $4 billion dollars for local cities and counties to buy foreclosed houses so they won't create blight, raising FHA loan guarantees, and $11 billion dollars in tax breaks and credits.

In an election year, congressional leaders may be starting to realize that they have shown little compassion for families with loan problems.

Elaine Brooks Cox and the six foreclosure counselors she supervises at Pacific Community Services helped 175 families last month and the number keeps growing.

"They're looking for help. They want Washington to step in and feel like they are concerned about their home ownership, and a lot of families right now are not feeling that," says Elaine Brooks-Cox.

Foreclosure impacts tax revenue for cities and counties and can lead to neglect of yards, issues which Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover says, have been ignored by Washington.

"I wish there had been some direction early on simply because we are already seeing the major impact in our communities," says Glover.

Gean Letta Mitchell has owned her Pittsburg home for eight years. She's saddened by what's happening around her.

"It affects everyone. Foreclosure. What people don't understand is that it might not affect us, but it's affecting. Because of the neighborhood, it's affecting everyone," says Mitchell.

The $11 billion dollars in tax breaks and tax credits are intended to encourage investors to buy foreclosed houses and to raise funds to help refinance subprime loans. The bipartisan plan will hit the Senate floor Thursday.