SANTA CRUZ > How one local is moving past his foreclosure
Local Ken Foster exemplifies the harm that can be done by just one foreclosure. After his ecological landscaping business, TerraNova, began “flat lining” in 2008, Foster says he took some risks to save his business, ultimately at the cost of his home. In order to meet business expenses and make payroll, he fell behind on mortgage payments, beginning more than two years ago. Facing default and foreclosure, Foster began what would be more than two years of struggle with Chase Bank on his qualifications for a loan modification so he could keep his home with reduced income.
Foster owed just over $500,000 on his mortgage for his Westside, single-story home. After more than two years of lost paperwork, re-applications, and new federal programs that may or may not work, Foster finally gave up. Just a few weeks ago, a “short sale” to a buyer was approved by Chase in the amount of $450,000. At the end of a long road, Chase was unwilling reduce the principal or work out terms Foster could afford, and took a loss of about $50,000 with the short sale, which rendered Foster free of the debt without destroying his credit, but without a home he can call his own.
In retrospect, Foster realizes that he was “dual tracked” by Chase throughout this process—a practice now proposed to be made explicitly illegal by the California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights. Foster’s loan modification applications and endless requests for supporting paperwork were getting processed along one, frustrating track, while legal foreclosure proceedings were following a separate, more “date-certain” track by a different department at Chase. Foster managed to get two foreclosure dates suspended by continuing to jump through the “loan mod” hoops, but was eventually, after two years, informed by Chase that the actual “mortgage bond investor” did not allow loan modifications, and foreclosure or short sale were his only options.
For Foster, the house was much more than a place to lay his head. Over the 13 years Foster owned the fairly typical, two-bedroom, single story home on the Westside, he rendered his home into a show-piece demonstration of sustainable, edible landscaping, including a carefully designed mix of fruit trees, raised-bed vegetable gardens, bee-keeping, chickens and composting. Foster led many educational tours over the years (he is especially proud of the kindergarten classes that came to visit), demonstrating the principals of permaculture that he had developed in his yard, and was working hard to make it into his business.
“I can’t put a value on all the improvements I made,” says Foster walking around the dense backyard garden, “and I’ll miss giving tours of the property to show what can be done with edible, ecological landscaping. I mourn that loss of my gardens, but I also celebrate the couple who bought the property—they are very committed to maintaining what I started and spreading the gospel of permaculture.”
Foster says his business is picking up again, and he has a lead on an apartment in Seascape that may work for him. He is as devoted as ever to ecological landscaping and the principals of permaculture, which he defines as “the science of maximizing beneficial relationships.” Foster serves on the steering committee of Transition Santa Cruz, an organization that advocates for resilient, ecologically-based communities that are prepared to “transition” to a sustainable, post-oil future.
Foster seems reconciled with the loss of his home and gardens, is optimistic about his business, and a bit philosophical in his outlook. “The key thing about permaculture and the principals of ’transition’ is that it’s all about building community connections, building resiliency within the community for the hard times, and preparing for a sustainable future,” Foster says. “I’ve had a lot of community support for my work, but it’s time to transition to another stage.”