Saving the southeast - Page 3

Foreclosure wave speeds SF's black exodus while city officials focus on new condo construction

Noting that foreclosed properties are still selling in the Bayview for $400,000, Davis says her nonprofit intends to purchase 100 to 200 homes during a 24-month period at less than $200,000 mark.

Yet Davis remains optimistic about the plan's chances as SFHDC negotiates with major banks for a 50 percent discount, noting that there is a monthly average of 50 foreclosures in the Bayview-Hunter's Point, and SFHDC has access to 100 qualified buyers.

Blackwell said the Redevelopment Agency hasn't developed an initiative or a funding pool to respond to the foreclosures in the city's southeast sector. But, he said, the agency is looking at ways to apply for National Stabilization Program funds even though "federal guidelines mostly don't apply well in expensive markets like San Francisco.

"We are engaged in advocacy so San Francisco can take advantage of any federal stabilization funds, but we don't have an agency-specific proposal," he continued.

"Frankly, I think community-based organizations are the best to do programs like that, especially since there is so much anxiety about the Redevelopment Agency and property acquisition in the southeast," Blackwell added.

He believes that given the city's current budgetary constraints, the AAOMTF "will likely look for leadership from the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors in cases where members have made recommendations and there is an opportunity to bring in public money."

Blackwell feels the city is still getting its mind around its foreclosure problem. "We've been spared the wholesale neighborhood-by-neighborhood devastation that places like Antioch faced," Blackwell said. "So, there wasn't the same sense of urgency. And there's a need to look more closely at the data. A lot of the information is based on anecdotes."

Yet the feds seem willing to help if city officials take the initiative. Larry Bush, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's regional office, says San Francisco and Oakland could file a joint foreclosure plan application.

"If they can identify 100 homes, they'd be eligible for $5 million," Bush said, noting one snag that could unravel the plan locally. "Foreclosed properties must be vacant for at least six months. And as you know, in San Francisco, foreclosed homes still sell."

Maxwell says the city could do more to confront predatory lenders and enforce tenant rights, as well as developing a plan to buy foreclosed properties. "But in San Francisco it's an issue because of relatively high prices," she told us.

Yet the city's high prices are the very problem pushing out low-income residents. African American home ownership actually increased after 1990, even as out-migration among black renters increased. But now, if the foreclosures stand, that exodus will likely accelerate.

Asked if she supports SFHDC's current foreclosure plan, Maxwell said, "It makes sense to me. If that could be done, it would be optimal."

Myrna Melgar of the Mayor's Office of Housing says she's not sure that a foreclosure resale plan would work in San Francisco for folks who bought a couple of years ago, when house prices hit $700,000, only to see house prices fall to around $400,000.

"San Francisco is a very different universe from Detroit," Melgar said. "Properties don't sit around empty and vacant. They are bought by speculators who are betting that in two or three years, their values will go up. So if we had money to buy these properties, which we don't, we'd be in competition with the speculators, who have lots of money with no strings attached, and who drive the prices up."

Another difference, Melgar said, is that San Francisco banks are holding onto 50 percent of their foreclosed properties, whereas Antioch banks are only holding onto 22 percent.