Even though banks' super-charged profits and eye-popping bonuses are back, they want you to keep paying the costs of their foreclosures.
In California, where the foreclosure crisis has hit with brutal force, it will cost communities between $600 billion and $1 trillion in lost property value, almost $4 billion in lost property tax revenue, and over $17 billion in local government costs between 2008 and 2012, according to Ellen Reese, a University of California Riverside sociologist and Jan Breidenbach, who teaches housing policy at USC, writing in the San Bernardino Sun.
That amounts to be about $20,000 per foreclosure that local governments [meaning you] have to pay every time a bank forecloses on a home.
One California legislator has made a modest suggestion: have banks pay those costs at the time of the foreclosure, so taxpayers don’t have to absorb them later.
The way the banks have responded, you would think that the legislators had proposed seizing the banks and distributing the bankers’ money on Main Street.
The mortgage bankers’ association, in best fear-mongering fashion, told its members that making the banks pay the costs of their failed loans would dry up all future home lending in the state.
In her April 6 letter to her membership, the association’s president, Pam Sosa, doesn’t offer any suggestion how the costs banks are currently passing on to you and me could be mitigated.
Meanwhile the California Bankers’ Association says if the bill becomes law, they’ll simply pass the cost on to their customers.
Why should the banks have to pay when they’ve done such a stellar job convincing the politicians that you won’t mind picking up the tab for the bankers’ losses?
If you thought that the financial collapse would curtail the banks sense of entitlement to write their own rules for their business, you would be wrong.
If you thought that the financial collapse would have made the banks think twice before demanding that we pay the costs when their business goes south, their reaction to AB 935, sponsored by San Fernando Valley Democrat Bob Blumenfield, demonstrates that you would be wrong.
Of course, the real purpose behind AB 935 is not to get the banks’ money. It is provide more of a financial incentive to the banks to work out sustainable modifications that would allow homeowners to remain in their homes. The Obama administration’s Home Affordable Mortgage Program has had little success in encouraging banks to modify loans because in part, the incentives it offers to the banks are too small But the banks find it tough to make their case on the merits. They can’t argue they don’t have enough money to pay their own way. Instead they rely on fear tactics and the inside game, which has served them so well in getting legislators and regulators to water down efforts to crack down in the wake of the financial collapse. In the depths of the recession in California, at the same time bankers were collecting billions in bailout, they were spending $70 million in lobbying fees and campaign contributions to thwart or weaken legislation that would have protected homeowners in the foreclosure process.
Testifying earlier this week on behalf of AB 935, economist and blogger Mike Konczal described foreclosures as a “lose-lose situation.” A foreclosure fee that accurately covers the real costs the community will have to pay will encourage more sustainable modifications, he said. He also debunked the mortgage bankers’ argument that it would have an impact on new lending, because it will only be applied to already existing loans. Citing recent Federal Reserve statistics, Konczal said relatively few homeowners are actually walking away from their “under water” homes, “and are willing to pay to do right by their communities and their promises. It would be great to have a financial system that met them halfway."
But the banks disagreed. They fought back hard on AB 935. Late Tuesday, Peggy Mears of Alliance of Californians for Community Protection sent around an email to say that the legislation appeared to be dead for the year, stuck in legislative committee.