Marc Lefkowitz | 06/24/11 @ 10:06am
Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman was applauded for his leadership as was former Cuyahoga County Treasurer now director of Thriving Communities Jim Rokakis for the foreclosure response in Northeast Ohio at the national Conference of Mayors this week.
Baltimore, Maryland opened its doors last week to mayors from forty-two states and one territory as the host city for 79th Annual Meeting of the US Conference of Mayors. As the birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner in 1814, the theme for this year's national event appropriately drew on the words of Francis Scott Key ? "Oh, say can you SEEBALTIMORE".
This five-day event featured multiple sessions covering a vast spectrum of timely issues facing elected officials, keynote speakers from all levels and disciplines within the state and federal governments, and meetings for standing committees. Safeguard Properties was pleased to contribute to the agenda as the leading presenter at the Council for the New American City, where Robert Klein spoke of innovative and viable approaches to "Jumpstarting Local Housing Markets".
Following the welcoming remarks by Council Chair Mayor Michael B. Coleman and opening words by outgoing President Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, HUD's Secretary Shaun Donovan addressed the room of Council attendees and referred to the Chair as a "beacon for us all" when referencing Mayor Coleman's accomplishments in Columbus, Ohio. Despite enormous progress witnessed within many areas, Secretary Donovan outlined the challenges that continue to plague our cities and stressed the importance of mayoral leadership, as elected officials are most in-touch with and influential of their local markets. HUD's numerous initiatives, the streamlining of regulations, and coordination of department relationships have led to great productivity. However, as Community Development Block Grant allocations are threatened under the proposed federal budget, Secretary Donovan asked for the support of mayors in facilitating the agency's agenda for a transformation in traditional funding models to include private investment and an enhancement in transparency when reporting the uses and successes of these funds. See the video of the opening session.
Council for the New American City
June 17, 2011
On June 17th Robert Klein was joined by Jim Rokakis, director of Thriving Communities, and Jack Konyk, Executive Director of Governmental Affairs at Weiner Brodsky Sidman Kider PC and chair of the State Legislative and Regulatory Committee for the Mortgage Bankers Association, to lead the Council meeting agenda with a presentation of practical and necessary tools to stimulate the housing market within municipalities facing the impacts of the foreclosure crisis. The innovative solutions presented by this esteemed panel focused on legislative reform coupled with a comprehensive, three-pronged approach to repurposing low-valued properties.
To set the stage for the discussion, Klein shared an overview of the roles, responsibilities, and activities that the mortgage servicing industry is taking within cities across the nation to preserve vacant properties throughout the foreclosure process. Despite these diligent efforts, abandoned properties, which comprise 28% of the pre-sale inventory, are still targets for vandalism, deteriorate more quickly, pose significant blight on communities, and reduce surrounding property values. Klein's perspectives demonstrated the sheer magnitude of this problem and from this reality is exploring creative and viable options to effectively address this volume and protect communities.
Klein's proposal to reduce the overall foreclosure time frame for those properties unquestionably abandoned by the borrower will halt the negative impacts of vacancy and reduce the currently lengthy foreclosure processes within many states. As these durations vary greatly within each jurisdiction from Alabama to Wyoming, the support and response by municipal leaders is critical to changing regulations that will protect and stabilize cities.
Drawing from his tenure as Cuyahoga County Treasurer, Rokakis reported on a legislative initiative currently underway in Ohio. A proposed bill is being circulated within the state house that will reduce the present foreclosure process that can take up to two years to as little as two months, thereby advancing the property's sale and return to productive use. In other cases, demolition can be expedited, ridding the community of the obstacle to other investments or strategies. This bill has gained much traction within the legislature and it is anticipated that it will develop into a working model for national application.
Konyk solicited the assistance from mayors to "build the crescendo" by presenting this solution for abandoned properties to their state legislators. Resolution cannot be facilitated until a servicer obtains title, and delays in this process impede stabilization. The proposal to reduce the excessive duration for completing the foreclosure process, after all efforts to keep a borrower in their home have been exhausted, is a viable and necessary tool for removing the crippling issue that is tying the hands of servicers and communities.
Delinquent properties contribute to the stalling of neighborhood reinvestment. As an alternative to the broad application of a single strategy, Klein suggested placing defaulted properties into one of three disposition "buckets" ? retain current occupancy, repair and rent, or demolish. These three approaches must be implemented simultaneously, offering balance and a comprehensive solution for cities. Selecting the end-use for a property will determine which strategy is appropriate; while at the same time stimulating other neighborhood improvements.
Additional solutions to assist communities with the current housing crisis were shared by the panel. Rokakis delivered firsthand accounts of the astounding volume and devastating impact of plummeting property values due to vacancies within the city of Cleveland. These conditions led to the creation of the Cuyahoga County Land Bank. Since its formation, partnerships with Government Solution Enterprises, HUD, and servicers (including Bank of America and Wells Fargo) have led to a monthly intake of approximately 200 properties. Although most properties are demolished, for which future funding is limited, some are being rehabilitated for new homeowners.
To solve the common frustration of municipal representatives and code enforcement officials of not being able to identify the direct point of contact for a vacant property, Klein invited all to utilize Compliance Connections (attached). This new and innovative web-based platform identifies the responsible party, facilitates direct communication between the city and the servicer, and allows officials to monitor the status of fulfillment services, thereby expediting resolution. A demonstration of this system was available at Safeguard's exhibit table at the conference.
The outcome of the solutions presented by Klein, Rokakis, and Konyk will surely produce win-win situations for all ? underwater borrowers, neighboring residents, communities, and servicers.