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California Attorney General Joins Coalition Pushing Back on “Pay to Pay” Mortgage Fees

“Some financial service providers charge fees if a consumer decides to use a certain type of payment method, such as making a payment over the telephone, through a website, or through a third-party service,” Bonta and other attorneys general wrote in a letter they co-signed addressed to Rohit Chopra, Director, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection also signed the letter.

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By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

Last week, California Attorney General Rob Bonta called on the federal government to outlaw additional fees companies charge homeowners for paying their mortgages.

California is joining 20 other states and the District of Columbia in the effort.

“Some financial service providers charge fees if a consumer decides to use a certain type of payment method, such as making a payment over the telephone, through a website, or through a third-party service,” Bonta and other attorneys general wrote in a letter they co-signed addressed to Rohit Chopra, Director, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection also signed the letter.

“While these type of ‘pay to pay’ fees are charged by service providers in several different markets, the issues raised by these fees are particularly insidious in the mortgage industry because, unlike most marketplaces, homeowners have no choice in their mortgage servicer,” the letter continued.

When homeowners decide to take out a mortgage, many believe that they are entering into a long-term relationship with a specific financial institution. That is not always the case, according to the California Department of Justice (DOJ).

After origination “many mortgage loans and their servicing rights are sold in secondary markets,” and could be “sold many times over the course of the loan,” the DOJ states.

“This means that homeowners don’t and can’t know who will service their mortgage loan and are therefore unable to avoid ‘pay to pay’ fees by taking their business elsewhere,” The DOJ explained.

Bonta said the problem is critical in California because the state is already facing a housing affordability problem.

“As costs of living continue to rise, the last thing Californians need is mortgage servicers taking advantage of this captive market in order to pad their bottom lines,” Bonta said. “I urge CFPB to put a stop to these abusive junk fees.”

Homeowners and renters in California struggle with the costs of housing costs and taxes. Additional fees companies tack onto payments increase those burdens on consumers in the Golden State, where only about 31% of households can afford to buy a median-priced home, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

African American homeowners in California also potentially face increased costs due to documented discriminatory practices common in the homebuying and selling processes.

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 948 after several reports revealed home appraisers valued homes owned by Blacks and other minorities at much lower prices than ones owned by Whites.

Wells Fargo has come under fire more than once for its discriminatory lending and banking services. According to findings of a Bloomberg News analysis released last month, the global San Francisco-based financial services company rejected 53% of Black homeowners who applied for refinancing loans during the pandemic in 2020. It only rejected 28% of white applicants.

The board of the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP met this weekend to discuss Wells Fargo’s record on providing its services to African American customers.

Among the country’s major lenders, Wells Fargo’s gap between Whites and Blacks the company approved for loans was the widest.

According to Zillow’s Consumer Housing Trends Report released last year, Black and other minority renters pay more in application fees and security deposits when renting apartments. They also fill out more rental applications, on average, before finding a place to live than white renters.

The multi-state coalition’s letter says, “There is no uniformity in convenience fees among mortgage servicers. Some charge them and some don’t.”

And the charges can add up.

For example, the letter spotlights one servicer that currently charges its borrowers $7.50 to make an online payment or pay via telephone through an automated service. If consumers want to speak to a live operator to make their payment, they will be charged $17.50.

Based out of New Jersey, the mortgage company that provides this service calls the process “SpeedPay,” which is one of the “one-time payment options” that a borrower may use to make his or her monthly mortgage payment, as stated on the company’s website.

States joining the initiative are Illinois, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington.

Bonta agrees, adding that the payments are “one example of junk fees charged to consumers in a multitude of financial products and services” offered by some banks, credit card companies, pre-paid debit card providers and others.

“For struggling homeowners trying to make their monthly mortgage payment, ‘pay to pay’ fees only rub salt in the wound,” said the California Attorney General.

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Activism

Call to Protect Geoffrey’s Inner Circle from Threatened High-Rise Development

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by reso-lution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and cul-ture of Oakland.

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By Ken Epstein

Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, a downtown Oakland Cultural Center that has featured live jazz and served music lovers and the Black community for decades, is now under threat from a proposed real estate development that could undermine the stability and future of the facility.

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by resolution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and culture of Oakland.

Now, the Oakland Planning Commission is considering a high-rise building proposed by out-of-town developers next to Geoffrey’s, which would jeopardize both the survival of the venue and the Black business district as a whole.

In addition to running a business that has been a crucial institution in the local community and the regional arts scene, Geoffrey Pete, founder, has utilized his business to offer meals for thousands of unsheltered individuals and hosted countless community events.

The following petition is being circulated in defense of Geoffrey’s and the Black Arts district (To add your name to the petition, email info@geoffreyslive.com):

“The African-American community in Oakland has been seriously damaged by developers and public offcials who are willing and sometimes eager to see African Americans disappear from the city. Black people comprised 47% of the population in 1980; now they make up only 20% of said population. In response to this crisis the 14th Street Corridor from Oak to the 880 Frontage Road was established as the Black Arts Movement and Business District by the City Council on Jan. 7, 2016, in Resolution 85958.

Tidewater, an out-of-town developer, is proposing to build a high-rise building at 1431 Franklin, which will damage the Black business district and the businesses in the area including the iconic business of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle at 410 – 14th St.

We demand that the Planning Commission and the City Council reject this predatory building proposal and proceed with plans to fund and enhance the Black Business District.”

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Activism

16th Annual MLK Day of Service on the Richmond Greenway

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

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“…Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

The event was hosted by Urban Tilth and the City of Richmond. Event partners were Groundwork Richmond, Rich City Rides, Moving Forward, Hope Worldwide, The Watershed Project, Contra Costa Resource Conservation District, Building Blocks for Kids, City of Richmond, Cal Cameron Institute, Friends of the Richmond Greenway; and Pogo Park.

The celebration made possible with the support of the Hellman Family Foundation, City of Richmond, and hundreds of individual donors.

The day’s schedule included volunteer projects along the Richmond Greenway and a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial and community celebration at Unity Park.

Among the community service projects were opportunities to take part in projects to transform and beautify the Richmond Greenway Trail, like tending to the Greenway Gardens, trash pickup, and planting native plant and trees.

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Activism

Sheng Thao Sworn in as New Mayor of Oakland, Pledges New Direction for the City

Mayor Thao provided a few minutes on the program to introduce to the community Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, the newly appointed deputy mayor, who has served as vice president of external affairs and dean of the school of education at Holy Names University, a leader of the Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and a member of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.

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Mayor Sheng Thao, sworn in as the 51st Mayor of Oakland, is flanked by her son Ben Ventura and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Jan. 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.
Mayor Sheng Thao, sworn in as the 51st Mayor of Oakland, is flanked by her son Ben Ventura and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Jan. 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Mayor Thao appoints HNU’s Dr. Kimberly Mayfield as deputy mayor

By Ken Epstein

Sheng Thao, a daughter of Hmong refugees who overcame homelessness and domestic abuse to attend university and build a life for herself and her family in Oakland, received the official oath of office Monday afternoon as the new mayor of the City of Oakland.

Sworn in at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, she stood on stage surrounded by friends, family, and staff members. She was flanked by her son Ben Ventura, who performed a musical piece on the cello, and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao.

The mayor called on Oaklanders to join with her to create a more humane, inclusive, and just city. She spoke about her commitment as a progressive to significantly improve the quality of life for residents, making the city safer and cleaner, building 30,000 units of truly affordable housing, fostering jobs, promoting economic development, supporting small businesses and providing solutions to homelessness that recognize the dignity of the unsheltered.

“I know what we can do together, Oakland,” she said. “Our city’s’ best days are still to come. The Oakland that we all know is possible and within our reach.”

Newly appointed Deputy Mayor Kimberly Mayfield (left) with Mayor Sheng Thao. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Newly appointed Deputy Mayor Kimberly Mayfield (left) with Mayor Sheng Thao. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Mayor Thao provided a few minutes on the program to introduce to the community Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, the newly appointed deputy mayor, who has served as vice president of external affairs and dean of the school of education at Holy Names University, a leader of the Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and a member of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.

In her remarks, the mayor focused on the city’s long fight to become more inclusive and equitable.

“We believe everyone deserves a seat at the table, not just a few, not just the wealthy, not just the well-connected,” she said.

“Sometimes, we take our shared progressive values for granted, our advances toward justice and equality,” said Mayor Thao.

She reminded people that “a…century ago, our city was dominated by members of the Ku Klux Klan (where) Klan members burned crosses in our hills and marched through our streets. As recently as the1970s, freeways were made possible by tearing down thriving Black, Latino, and Asian communities,” she continued.

“We recognize what we have overcome together to remember what is worth fighting for every day…(and) to take stock of how far we still have to go.”

Promising a “comprehensive” approach to public safety to make all neighborhoods in the city safer, she said she would bolster anti-crime programs like Ceasefire and “we will fill (police) vacancies with home-grown police officers who know our community, who look like us.”

At the same time, she said, the city must increase opportunities for young people, reinvigorating the summer jobs program (for youth) and enhance the school-to-work pipeline so young people can gain experience and job skills.

She said she would beef up the many city departments that are currently operating on skeleton staffing, promising to fill the staffing vacancies that “plague our city.”

Mayor Thao said she herself is a renter, and that she “will fiercely protect Oakland renters. If you are a renter in Oakland, you’ve got a mayor who’s got your back.”

Speaking about the Oakland A’s proposed waterfront real estate development promoted by former Mayor Libby Schaaf, Mayor Thao said the city will continue negotiations to keep the team “rooted in Oakland.”

“Working closely with the A’s, I’m hopeful we can reach a good deal, (based) on our Oakland values,” she said.

The former mayor’s plan for building the proposed waterfront real estate development at the Port of Oakland was dealt a major setback this week when Oakland failed to secure more than $180 million in federal funds to help pay for infrastructure development for the project.

Speaking of the importance of the appointment of Mayfield as deputy mayor, the Mayor’s Office explained her role in the new administration:

“Mayor Thao was thrilled Kimberly Mayfield agreed to join her team because of her tremendous and longstanding leadership in Oakland. In recognition of her vast experience, it was decided that the best role for her would be as deputy mayor where she will be an instrumental part of the leadership of both the Office and Oakland.”

In her introduction at the Paramount Theatre, Mayfield said, “Today is not about political agendas…It’s about the power of the people…it’s a recognition of the rejection of the status quo. This new chapter begins with a mayor that understands how to build a culture that works for everyone. Thank you, Mayor Thao for the opportunity to serve.”

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