Since 2008, 13,246 homes in Sonoma County, an hour north of San Francisco, have been lost to foreclosure and short sales. In February of this year, Tiffany Renée, the vice mayor of Petaluma, requested that the county District Attorney conduct a fraud investigation into the illegal foreclosures carried out by banks. But the County did not take action.
As a result, more than 1,500 additional homes there are facing foreclosure auction between now and the end of the year. Currently in the county there are 3,500 more homeless people than beds available to sleep them.
To address the crisis, C.J. Holmes, the founder of Home Owners for Justice, has come up with a novel plan to help bring the community together so they can take matters into their own hands: through foreclosure town halls.
“I’m angry and disgusted at the ruthlessness of the banks, mortgage companies and gangs of complicit politicians and bureaucrats,” says Holmes, an independent real estate broker based in Santa Rosa. “At the same time, I’m shaken to the core by the predicaments of people caught in this giant swindle. I deal with them daily, and they’re in shock!”
In California overall, says Holmes, more than 100,000 homes are at immediate risk of foreclosure before the end of 2012. “Families face appalling stress, not knowing where their next home will be, their kid’s school, neighborhood, or even where they’ll lay their heads,” Holmes said. “This is a foreclosure crisis that’s still at full speed, already having uprooted more than one million American children.”
Tonight, the first Foreclosure Town Hall will take place between 7:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. at the Veteran’s Memorial Building in Santa Rosa, arming people with the practical tools they need to stave off foreclosures so they can remain in their homes.
“That’s what foreclosure town halls are for,” she says. ”This bank-and-government swindle is not too complicated to understand, and neither are the solutions — like the use of eminent domain to name just one.”
Discussed at the town hall will be particular strategies to defend against foreclosures, including efforts to institute a de-facto county-level foreclosure moratorium, using a model that other U.S. counties could easily copy and implement. Homeowners will also learn how to bring simple, provable fraud lawsuits against banks, their attorneys and county DA’s.
As a real estate broker, Holmes says she has been a direct witness to people’s pain as she has seen their lifetimes of work, savings and finally their homes taken from them as a result of abusive and illegal banking and financial practices.
Independent audits carried out in Massachusetts in 2011 and in San Francisco last April revealed that some 84% of foreclosures across the board represent cases of fraud.
“Everybody who attends these foreclosure town halls will hear concrete proposals publicly discussed,” says Holmes, who believes the town hall model could be adopted to educate and empower homeowner not just statewide, but on a national basis.
“They get solid step-by-step information on how to regain control of their future, including help in deciding who they should elect to represent them in these matters,” she adds, and encourages citizens to demand that their county and city officials also attend as part of their sworn duty and obligation to the community.
“In spite of the off-and-on nature of public interest and the media’s short attention span, we still have a trillion-dollar, super-grand-larceny going on, right in our faces, and people need to know that we the people, as an organized group, can jam a monkey wrench into the machinery that’s doing this to us. We don’t have to take this.”