Here’s the problem I’m having with the media’s coverage of our state’s financial woes: California has one of the lowest home ownership rates in the nation & has been criticized for years because a huge cross section of it’s population is doomed to permanently rent their homes. So, when the talking heads on my late night news shows discuss the foreclosure crisis (which has slammed Stockton, CA harder than any other city nationwide with 1 out of every 75 homes being foreclosed on in the month of May 2008), why aren’t they talking about how it is affecting us renters? Kitty-corner from my apartment, a four unit apartment building has just been foreclosed on & the people living there are pretty much up shit creek sans paddle. The property owner is obviously strapped for cash, so I doubt the four families will see their security deposits anytime soon, and the bank that has assumed ownership of the property has kicked out the renters but doesn’t owe them any thirty day notice or financial compensation for their loss, even though none of them are at fault for their eviction. Disposed renters are given only 72 hours to vacate their homes and then they face the task of finding a new rental unit, not to mention coming up with another first month’s rent and security deposit. What are these people supposed to do? They were already renting a low-income apartment, so I doubt that any of them are wealthy enough to up and move at the drop of a hat. What are we, as a community, doing for these people? AND WHY does the mainstream media act like the only people facing economic troubles related to the foreclosure crisis are those folks that defaulted on their loans? What about the renters? People that have been paying their rent, people that have abided by the tenants of their leases, people on Section 8, people already in dire financial straits because of rising gas and food costs, people that don’t have the credit or income necessary to get a fucking loan in the first place are being evicted left & right. Many of these people don’t know that their homes are in the foreclosure process, since the property owner is not required to relinquish this information to their tenants, and then one day…*POOF*… their rights to their place of residence are gone because foreclosing lenders typically evict tenants in order to re-sell the property. Someone that looses the house they bought & live in to foreclosure can rent another house. They already make enough money to qualify for a home loan, so they have the cash needed to rent & property managers don’t give a damn about that aspect of your credit, so they won’t have trouble getting a spot. Renters thrown out because their landlord defaulted on a loan are not in a similar financially secure position. So what if you’ll have trouble getting another home loan ‘cause your credit is fucked? Those renters are having trouble getting another roof over their heads because someone else fucked up! Now that is a situation that deserves some hard-hitting journalistic attention! I’ve scoured the Internet in search of articles, segments, or op-eds on the subject, but it’s slim pickings.
Approximately 1/3 of Americans rent their homes and in California that figure shoots up to 42%. The available evidence suggests that the majority of foreclosed properties are likely to be rentals (or multi-unit dwellings, like duplexes or triplexes), since a property owner isn’t likely to default on their own home loan before the loan they have out on their rental properties.** Estimates for how many renters are being royally screwed by the crisis are inaccurate and incomplete at this point. Experts warn that the current data grossly underestimates the numbers of disposed renters. What figures we do have suggest that as of 2007, 22% of defaulted mortgages in California were on rental properties. In other words, at least 1/4 of the homes lost are those of people that have no part in the whole loan-situation to begin with! And you know that plenty of rentals house more than one tenant (apartment buildings & multi-unit houses, for example), so counting the number of foreclosed rentals doesn’t even begin to show us how many people are being screwed over. Worse still, all those former homeowners are now joining the ranks of the renting class and, according to the laws of supply and demand, are driving up the cost of renting for everybody. U.S. Census Bureau statistics show a 14% jump in the nation’s median asking rate for rentals since 2003 and California is famous for it’s inflated rental rates, so you know it’s worse around here! Woe is the West Coast renter, I suppose.
On July 8th, Governor Swart..z… the fucking Gubernator signed into law Senate Bill 1137, the so-called Perata/Bass Mortgage Relief Bill, which requires tenants to be notified once a bill of sale is issued on the property and, once sold, tenants now have 60 days notice before their eviction…BUT only if the defaulted loan was taken out between January 2003 and December 2007. Now, these innocent parties have two months to pull a shit load of money out of their asses, find a new place in an increasingly cramped rental market, AND prepare to pay more rent each month to boot! Good looking out, California!
Here are a couple Stockton-specific annoyances this subject has planted in my head:
1. Why does the city General Plan include a few more Spanos & Grupe housing developments between now & 2013 if we can’t afford the homes we’ve built thus far? Why are we OK-ing more single family home development if predictions suggest the need for more multi-unit rentals? Shouldn’t a General Plan consider this type of shit? Isn’t that why we make a fucking General Plan? To generally plan for the future’s needs?
2. Why is The Record ignoring the foreclosure crisis as it relates to us renters? Aren’t the editors aware of the fact that many Stocktonians rent? Don’t they have a duty, as our main news outlet, to inform the citizenry of regional disaster like this, rather than use any article on the subject to paint faux-silver linings all over the fucking place? How about giving renters a heads up, in case they didn’t know they should be worried?
3. Where is the federal bailout for the poor victims of this crisis, like Stockton’s needy masses? How does Washington justify multi-million dollar bank bailouts for lenders that profited from the mortgage refinancing schemes and sub-prime loans that caused the crisis, when innocent displaced Stocktonians are too broke to cough up the cash for their security deposits? Why aren’t our tax dollars being used to protect us from poverty? From homelessness? From predatory financial entities bent on profit at any cost?
** Also, this assumption was stolen from a 2008 report issued by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, located HERE.