Monday, January 14, 2013

Use Of Eminent Domain To Bail Out Underwater Homeowners Coming To Bay State?

In Brockton, Massachusetts, The Huffington Post reports:

  • In a move that’s pitting grassroots housing activists against Wall Street interests, the City Council of Brockton, Mass., decided this week to commission a study into the feasibility of using eminent domain powers to seize the mortgages of local residents struggling to pay off their loans.

    The plan being studied would essentially use municipal government’s prerogative of eminent domain to take possession of foreclosed residential mortgage notes, selling them back to residents, as the City Council resolution put it, “for the purpose of removing blight and restoring family home-ownership within the city.”

    The city would also focus on seizing the mortgages of “underwater” homeowners, those who owe more on their homes than their current appraised worth and would greatly benefit from a new loan that resets the value of their property.

    Such a framework would amount to “using government power to do social good,” Steve Meacham, an organizer with non-profit advocacy group City Life/Vida Urbana said, adding that such “social good is something the banks should have been doing in the first place anyway.”

    Brockton's move is the latest revival of an idea that has been unevenly embraced by some of the communities worst hit by the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007. Fittingly enough, using eminent domain did not have its genesis with the community organizers now pushing it forward in places like Brockton, San Bernandino, Calif., or Detroit, but in high finance, where a firm called Mortgage Resolution Partners -- which hopes to make a tidy profit providing financing for the schema -- first suggested the plan.

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