Owners refuse to give up foreclosed homes

February 19, 2009 6:46:09 PM PST
The Bay Area has been hit hard by the nation's foreclosure crisis, but one Oakland neighborhood in particular is devastated by what is happening. It is a place that has more foreclosures than anywhere else in Oakland.

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The white picket fences are everywhere, but life in this stretch of east Oakland is far from perfect.

House after house, the for sale signs line the streets, along with no trespassing warnings, eviction notices, and bank-owned signs. They are the scarlet letters of the foreclosure crisis, and they can be found around just about every corner.

In the three years Rosa Gonzalez has lived in the area, she has watched her neighborhood turn into a foreclosure hot spot. Gonzalez and her family fell behind on their $3,800 a month payments last year. The bank owns her house now.

"I had an 11 point something on one rate and the other loan was 7.85," said Gonzalez.

Thursday, that house became a rallying point for local activists who vow to not let the bank take control.

Oakland city councilwoman Desley Brooks represents the hard hit neighborhood.

"These neighborhoods are being devastated," said Brooks.

Brooks introduced legislation that would require vacant properties to register with the city so officials have a grasp on exactly how many abandoned homes are out there.

"To get them to do something different with their properties, can change the quality of life in a neighborhood," said Brooks.

It is not just Gonzales who is losing her house. Her neighbor across the street is losing hers. Three other houses up the block went into foreclosure. The neighbors on this street say 10 houses in all have seen foreclosure.

The evidence is not just anecdotal. Last month alone there were 167 foreclosures, or people who faced the possibility of foreclosure, in east Oakland's 94506 zip code -- more than anywhere else in Oakland.

"What happened was they refinanced with loans that have adjustable rate mortgages and those mortgages readjusted and they could no longer afford the payments," said David Kerr, president of the Oakland Association of Realtors.

"Now I know the feeling," said Gonzalez.

For now, Gonzalez will keep hoping that she does not become another sign of the times.

LINK: Look up foreclosure information for your area through RealtyTrac.com

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