What is currently being done at the state level to address the foreclosure crisis?
Several weeks ago, California and 48 other states agreed to a $25 billion legal settlement with the nation’s five largest banks based on their illegal practice of robo-signing foreclosure documents. As a result of this settlement, five pieces of legislation known as the California Homeowner Bill of Rights have been introduced in the legislature to enact aspects of the agreement.
The legislative package seeks to remedy a number of the questionable practices taking place within the mortgage finance industry. Banks will be required to establish a single point of contact for borrowers who seek assistance and will be banned from the practice of “dual tracking” whereby banks simultaneously pursue foreclosure while negotiating with a homeowner about a loan modification. Additionally, the legislation would require loan servicers to provide homeowners with documentation that verifies the servicers’ right to pursue foreclosure; would establish fines of $10,000 for knowingly filing documents that contain inaccurate information; and would provide cities with new options to combat blight created by foreclosed and vacant properties.
It is my hope that the settlement agreement and the legislation will provide consumers with concrete remedies when dealing with the unfair mortgage practices employed by some banks. In the Central Coast region, foreclosures are still occurring and homeowners are still exploring loan modifications. If successful, this legislation will bring an important level of fairness and transparency to the mortgage process while protecting the interests of homeowners and law-abiding lenders alike.
With the one year anniversary of the devastating 2011 Pacific tsunami reminding us of the damage it produced here in Santa Cruz, is there anything being done to heighten the awareness about the dangers tsunamis pose to those of us who live along the coast?
The devastating tsunami in the Pacific Ocean created by the March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan claimed the lives of more than 19,000 Japanese citizens, wiped out entire communities, and inflicted billions of dollars in damages. Effects of the tsunami were felt thousands of miles away on our own shoreline where a number of California’s harbors and ports were severely damaged and local commercial fishing industries debilitated. The Santa Cruz Harbor suffered approximately $25 million in damages.
The one year anniversary of the Pacific tsunami allows us to not only reflect on the tragic devastation suffered, but also to reexamine ways in which we can prepare for future such natural disasters. This is why I authored Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 114 which declares the week of March 25 through 31, 2012 as “California Tsunami Awareness Week” to create public awareness about the necessity for Californians in coastal communities to actively prepare and plan for the possibility of tsunamis.
Throughout the week of March 25, the California Emergency Management Agency and the California Geological Survey will distribute educational materials, hold emergency tests, and organize and host events on how to prepare and stay safe during a tsunami-driven natural disaster. ACR 114 strives to bring awareness and attention to the need for the millions of Californians who live, work, and visit California’s coastline to be conscious of tsunami hazard zones, evacuation routes, and warning systems. I encourage coastal residents to review the educational materials and information on how to stay safe in the event of a tsunami at tsunami.ca.gov. Similar to earthquake and fire emergency preparedness, now is the time for you and your family to develop tsunami awareness and a disaster plan.