Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Media: Foreclosures a grave concern for Suisun

From Daily Republic (Subscription required)
By Carol Bogart | Daily Republic

SUISUN CITY - Remona Gainer remembers paying $200 a month for her HUD apartment in Fairfield.

Today, the foster mother holds down three jobs while also raising her special needs daughter and attending night school to become a paralegal. She owns a house in Suisun City and has a $2,700 a month mortgage.

Gainer has never missed a payment in the two years she's owned her home, but worries she could still lose everything she's worked so hard for if abandoned foreclosed houses nearby negatively impact the appraised value of her home.

In March, her loan agreement requires a refinance - one that could be adversely impacted if her home's value falls. Gainer expressed those concerns Tuesday night at the joint meeting of the Suisun Council, Housing Agency and Redevelopment Agency.

The widening list of foreclosures in the city is prompting city officials to look for ways to inform people how to avoid foreclosure, as well as how to get potentially poorly maintained properties back into private hands.

Bigger fees assessed against those who violate city home maintenance codes found a favorable response from several councilmember. Right now, Suisun City only charges $50 for a first time offense, compared to Sacramento, which charges $1,000.

The more than $8 million in the Redevelopment Agency's 'Set Aside Fund' could, the council learned from agency director Jason Garben, be used to subsidize first time, income eligible homebuyers, or be spent rehabbing dilapidated houses and apartment complexes, with 20 percent set aside for low and moderate income individuals and families.

State law requires that 20 percent of redevelopment monies granted to Suisun City annually be so-earmarked.

Garben pointed out that the city has largely run out of space to build new housing, and that rehabbing existing structures is a workable alternative. All agreed that Suisun City, along with the rest of the country, faces a glut of properties banks can't even sell at foreclosure auctions - because the loan on the property exceeds the value.

Finding a solution that keeps property owners like Gainer in their homes has to take priority, the council agreed. Suisun City resident Paul Greenlee told the council that he hears many neighbors and fellow parishioners at Calvary Baptist Church talking about being afraid they're about to lose their homes to foreclosure. 'They're basically in shock,' Greenlee said.

Mayor Pete Sanchez learned that many of the foreclosures are concentrated around Pintail Drive.

He remembers such homes selling for $47,000 when they were built in the 1970s. A year ago, he said, they sold for $500,000 - and today might not bring $300,000.

All agreed homeowners need to try to work with banks to restructure their loans at the first hint they might miss a mortgage payment, although the foreclosure can take a year or more.

Greenlee said lenders don't want devalued properties, and one suggestion was that struggling homeowners be allowed to remain in the home as tenants to give banks a needed income stream.

At press time, the council still had many questions for Garben, who said he would consult with experts to find the answers. Greenlee said of those facing foreclosure in his neighborhood and church: 'Alot of people just don't know what to do.'

Reach Carol Bogart at 427-6955 or

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