SF's foreclosure crisis

Kicking people out of their homes is costing the city $42 million 


OPINION Foreclosures are still ravaging San Francisco neighborhoods.

As steward of the city's property roll and head of the department that appraises every home in San Francisco, I see every day the toll the mortgage crisis is having on real estate values and the city budget.

Thousands of Notices of Default have been filed with my office in the last few years, and every Monday there's a vivid reminder San Francisco is far from out of the woods on foreclosures as homes are auctioned off on the steps of City Hall.

Two Mondays ago, lifelong Bayview-Hunter's Point resident Curtis Warren's home — which my office assessed to be worth $165,000 — was scheduled to be auctioned because he had fallen behind on a $15,000 debt.

Imagine having your home foreclosed upon over a loan less than 10 percent of the value of the property. Imagine a family in your neighborhood being put on the street and a home in your community sitting vacant under such circumstances.

Fortunately, the foreclosure sale of Curtis's home was canceled. Curtis is a member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) — a grassroots organization working to help victims of the mortgage meltdown.

Unfortunately, cases like Curtis's are all too common. That is why I am fighting foreclosure as your Assessor-Recorder and working to get Sacramento to act, too.

ACCE recently published startling findings in their "The Wall Street Wrecking Ball" report.

San Francisco homeowners are estimated to lose $6.9 billion in property values as a result of foreclosures.

Foreclosure costs San Francisco government an estimated $42 million in lost revenue.

Local government spends an additional $19,229 on increased safety inspections, police and fire calls, and trash removal and maintenance for every foreclosure. This costs San Francisco $73 million.

San Francisco LITERALLY cannot afford this foreclosure crisis, which is why I have joined with Supervisors John Avalos, Malia Cohen and Ross Mirkarimi in support of the following plan of action:

A foreclosure fee to ensure banks pay their fair share: The city should charge a $10,000 to $20,000 fee per foreclosure to defray loss of home values and costs to taxpayers. This fee would raise roughly $2 billion to $4 billion over the next year to partially reimburse local governments.

A strong AG settlement. Any agreement between banks and the 50 attorneys general must include 1) a monetary settlement commensurate with the harm caused by banks; 2) limited release of bank liability; 3) principal reductions fairly distributed to communities hardest hit by predatory lending and foreclosure; and 4) homeowner restitution for irresponsible and illegal foreclosure practices.

Stop preventable foreclosures: The city should require court-based mediation programs to help homeowners modify loans and end the "dual track" process, whereby banks continue foreclosure proceedings while simultaneously negotiating loan modifications.

Wall Street must pay for foreclosure-related blight: Banks must maintain and pay for the cleanup of blighted, vacant homes in neighborhoods.

As long as our economy and housing market is being hampered by foreclosures caused by banks and Wall Street, we must continue to fight for common-sense solutions that protect our neighborhoods and the city.

Phil Ting is assessor-recorder of San Francisco.

Also from this author

  • Let's close the Prop. 13 loophole

    Between 1975 and today, commercial property contributions to the tax roll have decreased from 47 percent to 30 percent