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Activists Seek Implementation Of Anti-foreclosure Law


A federal court ruling clears the way for the city of Springfield Massachusetts to implement a foreclosure ordinance.  Housing rights advocates predict the local law will become a model for other cities and states struggling with the blight caused by foreclosed vacant property.  WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

      The Springfield ordinance requires financial institutions to post a $10,000 bond with each foreclosure. It is intended to cover the cost of securing and maintaining properties that have been abandoned following foreclosure.  Up until now this expense, necessary for public safety and to stop the spread of urban blight has been born largely by city taxpayers, according to Amaad Rivera, the former Springfield City Councilor, who was the lead sponsor of the ordinance.

      The ordinance also requires a mediation process that is intended to give people who can afford to pay something on a mortgage each month a chance to stay in their homes.

      The ordinance was passed unanimously by the Springfield City Council last August and signed by Mayor Domenic Sarno.  The Massachusetts Bankers Association and half dozen local  banks sued the city last fall.  Implementation of the ordinance was put on hold pending the outcome of the suit.

      US District Court Judge Michael Ponsor, in a strongly worded decision issued earlier this week said  the city had made a modest effort to soften the foreclosure crisis. He said the ordinance violates no Constitutional provision or state statute.  An appeal is still  possible, but Rivera, who now works for the Massachusett Commission Against Discrimination, said he the judge’s ruling left  him exuberant.

      Housing rights advocates say a member of Mayor Sarno’s staff  has agreed to meet  with them soon to discuss  implementing the ordinance.  Malcolm Chu, an organizer with Springfield No One Leaves,  an advocacy group for people facing foreclosure, said  there is no  need to wait.

      Chu said there is a lot of interest around the county in the Springfield anti-foreclosure ordinance.  Springfield for several years had the highest rate of foreclosures in Massachusetts. The pace of foreclosures, nationwide,  is expected to increase as lenders clear a  back log of  delinquent mortgages.

      Joel  Feldman, a Springfield attorney ,said mediation typically results in an settlement between the lender and the delinquent borrower to avoid foreclosure, but mediation happens infrequently.

      David Dunwell  believes  he would still have his Springfield home, t if  a mediation process had been required by law a few years ago when he was struggling to avoid foreclosure

      The Springfield ordinance imposes a $300 per day fine on financial institutions that fail to enter into a mediation process with homeowners facing foreclosure.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.