SAN FRANCISCO -- Supervisor John Avalos introduced a resolution on Tuesday calling for a moratorium on San Francisco home foreclosures until state and federal measures protecting homeowners from unlawful practices are in place.
He also urged officials to support the California Homeowners Bill of Rights, a collection of six bills that would protect borrowers from mortgage fraud proposed by California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
“We have already lost so much due to the unconscionable predatory lending practices and foreclosure fast-tracking of the banks and mortgage industry," said Avalos in a statement. "We have to do everything in our power to stop any more foreclosure activities until such time that state and federal reforms are in place ”
Avalos represents District 11 (encompassing the Excelsior, Outer Mission, Ingelside and Crocker Amazon), which has some of the highest foreclosure rates in San Francisco. Avalos even admitted that he is $100,000 underwater on his own home, meaning that a job loss -- like so many other San Franciscans have experienced -- could add him to the foreclosure list
In February, Harris introduced a legislative package that aims to guarantee fairness and transparency in the mortgage process, community tools to prevent blight after foreclosure, tenant protections after foreclosure, enhanced legal enforcement to defend homeowners (paid for by fees imposed on banks) and a special grand jury to investigate financial and foreclosure crime.
The package was introduced in part as a response to a harrowing audit by San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, which revealed the majority of foreclosures in San Francisco county were done illegally.
"Overall, we identified one or more irregularities in 99 percent of the subject loans," wrote Ting in the report, titled Foreclosure in California: A Crisis of Compliance. "In 84 percent of the loans, we identified what appear to be one ore more clear violations of the law."
The New York Times reported on the depth of the illegalities:
The improprieties range from the basic -- a failure to warn borrowers that they were in default on their loans as required by law -- to the arcane. For example, transfers of many loans in the foreclosure files were made by entities that had no right to assign them and institutions took back properties in auctions even though they had not proved ownership.
San Francisco Bayview resident Vivian Richardson told The Huffington Post that the audit revealed the validity of homeowner claims.
"It's not like we all just drank the Kool-Aid one day or called each other up and said, 'Lets stop paying our loans,'" she told HuffPost. "Something is obviously wrong with the loans. This audit proved that we aren't crazy; this crisis is affecting so many of us."
Richardson argued that continuing to foreclose on homes while an investigation is underway would be fundamentally wrong.
"It's insanity," she said. "Now Avalos is asking that we take a pause, investigate the problems and reevaluate. Which is what makes sense."
Richardson said she is thrilled that Avalos, Harris and Ting are stepping up to defend California homeowners. "I think it's time for everyone in the political arena to stand up to this," she told HuffPost. "Because it's wrong."
Avalos led a rally on the steps of City Hall Tuesday demanding the suspension of foreclosures until the Homeowners Bill of Rights is passed statewide.