Friday, November 30, 2007

Suisun City Council to focus on foreclosures

From Daily Republic (Subscription required)

By Carol Bogart

SUISUN CITY - Buying a home in Suisun City may soon be more affordable as a result of the growing tide of foreclosures in the city.

As of Nov. 27, 21 percent of Suisun City properties on the Multiple Listing Service are bank-owned, according to MLS foreclosure statistics, compared with 18 percent in Solano County. Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez said more than 10 percent of the county's foreclosures are in Suisun City.

'It's something we really have to address aggressively,' Sanchez said.

Sanchez believes one solution could come from money the Suisun City Redevelopment Agency has set aside for affordable housing. State law requires that 20 percent of tax money collected for redevelopment be set aside for that purpose. Currently, Sanchez said, there is $8 million in the Housing Set Aside fund.

If the city doesn't use the money for affordable housing, the state could put a hold on money earmarked for redevelopment projects the city wants, Sanchez said.

Sanchez would like to see the city subsidize by $80,000 to $100,000 the purchase price of homes for sale in the $320,000 range. This, he said, would allow private sales to those who might not otherwise be able to afford homes and keep some houses out of foreclosure.

Suisun City's bank-owned properties will be a topic of discussion at the City Council meeting Tuesday. The discussion will focus on how the city can shape policy to stem the foreclosure tide and take steps to help residents deal with possible crime, code enforcement and declining property values when neighbors abandon foreclosed properties.

Already, Sanchez said, the city has had one or two instances in which homeless people have tried to occupy an abandoned foreclosed structure.

If the city can free up money in the Housing Set Aside fund to subsidize the cost of buying some of the homes in danger of foreclosure, 100 homes in Suisun City could immediately come off the foreclosure list and cut the city's foreclosure rate by a third, Sanchez said.

The mayor, who worked for 23 years in the tax assessor's office, said the city has long referred to homeowners who fail to maintain their lawns and cut down tall weeds as 'equity thieves.' The modern version, he said, is banks that fail to accelerate moving foreclosed homes back into private ownership.

'A boarded-up house every 10 to 15 houses negatively impacts the city,' Sanchez said.

According to information published by the city, the foreclosure situation in Suisun City seems to be manageable right now but will likely get worse before it gets better.

In a recent two-week period, the number of foreclosed properties listed increased by 20, according to the city.

Among other things that will be discussed Tuesday are steps other municipalities have taken to try to alleviate foreclosure-related problems. For example, the city information points to the Residential Abandonment Registration Program in Chula Vista. The program requires banks to assume responsibility for maintaining foreclosed properties. Sacramento has a similar program called the Vacant Building Ordinance.

The Suisun City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council chamber at the Civic Center. For more information, visit

Reach Carol Bogart at 427-6955 or at

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