Travis Air Force Base is in the heart of Solano County where 1 in 12 homeowners faces foreclosure and military families are no exception. The signs are easy to see in neighborhoods there, showing just how hard the foreclosure crisis has hit men and women in uniform.
"Housing market was great. Everybody was buying homes," Staff Sgt. Daniel Villegas recalled. He bought his home at the height of the market, only to fall behind on his $356,000 loan when his mortgage payments went up and the value of his home plunged, dramatically. "At the end of the short sale, the house itself sold for $130,000, so I lost about $250,000 on the home," he said.
Villegas got out of his house through a short sale, but many others in the military lose theirs to foreclosure or fall victim to predatory lending practices. "They're always walking into new communities where they may be taken advantage of and frankly, they have a guaranteed paycheck as well. And, that too makes them very attractive to scammers," said the wife of CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, Holly Petraeus, deputy secretary with the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Office of Service member Affairs.
Petraeus and California Attorney General Kamala Harris held a town hall meeting at Travis. Harris is working hard to encourage passage of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, a package that includes special protections for military families that mirror those in the national mortgage settlement. "For the military families, the banks will and are required to authorize short sales, loan modifications, or other loss mitigation relief to service members regardless of whether the service member is delinquent," Harris said.
For a service person, losing their home to foreclosure can not only hurt their credit rating, it can damage their career. Many military people depend on a certain security clearance and if they have bad credit or financial problems they can lose those clearances.