People lined up to get mortgage help


More than 1,600 foreclosure notices went out in the Bay Area in the first quarter of this year and a quarter of them came from Contra Costa County. That's a 140 percent increase in foreclosure activity in just one year.

Many of people in Contra Costa County got risky loans which put them into nice homes at reasonable monthly payments, but then interest rates shot up, the economy went south, and their home values tanked.

Misery had a lot of company on a Friday night in Antioch, where homeowners tried to negotiate their way out of foreclosure and keep a roof over their heads.

"So what I'm here to do is ask Washington Mutual to seek a return on my investment," said Gary Robinson, an Antioch Homeowner.

A few years ago, Gary Robinson bought this home in Antioch for about $700,000 using an interest-only loan and an adjustable rate that started at about four percent and has nearly doubled.

"My mortgage is at $5,000 dollars. It went from $2,000 to $5,000 and the house is worth 60 to 50 percent less," said Robinson.

A Contra Costa County interfaith organization organized this event at the Rivertown Resource Center to put customers of Washington Mutual in touch with bank officials so they could try to rework their mortgages.

"Did you think this could happen?" asked ABC7's John Alston.
"No, this is not our first home. This situation was like something we didn't know," said Bernice Ramos, Antioch Homeowner.

There was also a lawyer from Bay Area Legal Aid here, who says risky interest only loans were marketed heavily to lower-income minority communities often without requiring proof of income.

"Here basically, the brokers were writing down whatever numbers they thought would help people get the loan without any regard to how much they were actually making," said Noah Zinner, Bay Area Legal Aid.

And then there is the drastic housing downturn in Antioch and parts of Contra Costa County which rode the sub-prime boom and is now failing to sustain that glut of homes which were sold at high prices.

"So more and more people are going to realize that it's too painful to make payments on their homes and they're going to go into default and we're going to see more foreclosures. So Washington Mutual is not out of the woods and homeowners in the East Bay aren't out of the woods," said Thomas Davidoff Ph.D., from UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

There will be no decision yet about who will be allowed to re-negotiate their mortgages and who won't. Washington mutual, which has taken a big hit because of loans that went bad, says it will give customers every consideration so they can succeed as homeowners.

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