New America Media, News Report, Zaineb Mohammed, Posted: Oct 06, 2011
(NAM) CALIFORNIA – Last week, Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that California would withdraw from multi-state negotiations with some of the nation’s largest banks to reach a settlement on their foreclosure practices. And in a conference call she held earlier this week with various ethnic media outlets, including Univision and Black Voice News, Harris outlined a separate plan that will combine litigation, public education, and legislation to fundamentally reform how banks do business in an effort to prevent further foreclosure in the state.
The Attorney General also declared that the ethnic media sector will be key to California’s course of action, by taking on an active role in the public education portion of the strategy.
“As the leaders of the various communities that were impacted the most, you are going to be critical to getting the education piece out to the community to know where to go for help, so that they aren’t paying out of pocket when the help is available for free,” she said.
Harris emphasized the fact that ethnic minority communities have been the hardest hit by foreclosure across the state.
“Latino and African-American homeowners represent 55 percent of the foreclosures, despite having only 36 percent of the mortgages,” she said. In addition, Harris pointed out that Latinos were 7.9 times more likely than whites to have been offered a sub-prime adjustable rate mortgage – deals that often led to foreclosure — while African-Americans were 6.7 times more likely and Asians were 2.1 times more likely than whites to receive such loans.
Harris also noted there has been a clear pattern of banks foreclosing on homes where English is a second language, or where homeowners are not highly educated. “In this environment, what I’ve found is that that there are predators that are taking advantage of these homeowners who don’t know what to do or where to go,” she said.
Emphasizing the importance of getting community organizations, consumer advocates, and faith-based organizations involved, Harris asked that those groups make an effort to inform their community members facing foreclosure of places where they can get help, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Homeowners and advocacy groups have expressed strong support for Harris’s announcement that California will no longer be a part of the multi-state settlement negotiations, but the question remains: How will Californians who have lost their homes get relief?
Harris herself pointed out the dire state of things, noting the 550,000 foreclosure filings in California within the last year and the nearly 1 million California children who have been affected by the foreclosures. In addition, she said it is estimated that by 2012 the foreclosure crisis will strip neighboring homes of $1.9 trillion in their value because of the blight caused by nearby homes that were foreclosed on.
However, when it came to discussing funding for the measures she outlined and the timeline for relief, Harris was vague.
In response to a question about the funding for her public education plans, Harris commented that she would be relying on “human capital.” And regarding the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force, whose role has been expanded despite budget cuts, she declared, “We are counting on the legislature and the governor to give it whatever resources we need.”
When asked about a time frame, Harris responded with uncertainty: “We’ve made some progress but have a lot more to do. I can’t put an exact time frame on it. We are prioritizing it and accelerating as fast as possible.”
Despite being unable to offer specifics about her plans, Harris reaffirmed her commitment to marginalized communities.
“We’re going to keep coming back to [the ethnic media] to help us communicate this information to these communities. We see the African American, Latino, and Asian communities being hardest hit because people think they don’t have to speak the truth to these communities in a way that is understandable.”