Oakland Rents Rise Astronomically, Longtime Home Owners Face Foreclosure

By Ken A. Epstein

While numbers of overall foreclosures in Oakland are decreasing, they are more and more affecting people who have lived in their homes for 10 or more years, according to a quarterly City of Oakland report on housing issues.

In addition, contributing to gentrification, rent increases are rising off the charts. “New rents in crime-heavy neighborhoods (are) rising to $2,200 (per month),” according to the report released Tuesday at the city’s Community and Economic Development Committee (CED) meeting.

Margaretta Lin

Margaretta Lin

A single-earner family with an income of $13.75 per hour would  “have to make 207 percent more to reasonably afford the rent,” the report said.

Much of the change housing market, including the decline in foreclosures, can be attributed to new state and federal laws that provide homeowners at least some level of protection, according to Margaretta Lin, Strategic Initiatives Manager of the city’s Housing and Community Development Department.

“It’s been about a year since the national mortgage settlement agreement has been implemented, and about nine months since our state Homeowner Bill of Rights has been implemented. That have been some major shifts and transitions in our housing market,” she said.

Maeve Elise Brown

Maeve Elise Brown

However, she said, “We continue to see intense impact on longtime homeowners. At the height of the subprime mortgage crisis in Oakland, families that were in crisis had owned their homes for less than two years. Today the majority of families in Oakland in foreclosure have owned their homes for at least 10 years.”

“Many of the clients we working with have owned their homes for decades, ¨ Lin added.

Lin also pointed to anecdotal evidence of renters who are coming to agencies who are being forced to move because they cannot afford huge rent increases, especially in homes and apartments that are not covered by the city’s rent ordinance.

“Rent prices continue to rise at alarming rates,” she said.  “We are seeing renters coming in who are (faced) with new rents in parts of East Oakland, rents that are rising $400-$500 a month, (rising to) $2200 a month.”

“This is clearly unaffordable to most Oakland renters, ¨ said Lin.

Owners of homes who belong to a homeowners’ association have also faced foreclosures when they fall behind with their dues or assessments, according to Maeve Elise Brown, executive director of Housing and Economic Rights Advocates.

People may not know that they can be foreclosed on if they get behind in their dues or assessments, she said.   “We are getting ready to file suit against a particular collections entity that encourage the homeowner association not to work with homeowners and instead loads

huge fees into their collection effort,” she said.

“This is apparently a common practice among some homeowner collection agencies,” she added.

Brown said her organization is also litigating cases where a homeowner dies and a bank forecloses rather than allow children and widows to take over the home they inherited.

“There are children and widows who are inheriting the home but are not on the loan. We have the experience of having the mortgage servicer not talking to them,” she said.

“We’ve filed a class case on behalf of a daughter who lost her home completely at the hands of Chase and got a good decision on a motion to dismiss,” said Brown.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 25, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)