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City of Richmond Invokes Eminent Domain to Save Homes

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Homeowners and local officials in Richmond are considering a radical idea to keep people facing foreclosure in their homes. Eminent Domain, traditionally used by cities and states to seize property from homeowners for the “common good” to build roads and shopping malls, is now being considered to seize underwater mortgages from lenders, reduce the mortgages to current market value and resell them back to the homeowner. Richmond could become the first city in the nation to use eminent domain to bail out distressed homeowners.

Saturday, over 100 residents attended a meeting at Nevin Community Center to hear presentations by project leaders from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE); Mortgage Resolution Partners (MRP), the investment firm providing funding and support to save residents’ homes; and Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles and Mayor Gale McLaughlin who are supporting the idea and willing to take on Wall Street banks who refused to modify loans and work with homeowners.

Amy Shur, ACCE’s campaign director states that “The banks have sold these loans to other investors and the people who peddled these loans no longer care if the loan succeeds. They don’t lose when the homeowner loses, and often loan servicers actually do better when the homeowner is foreclosed upon.”

Foreclosed home in Richmond

Foreclosed home in Richmond

Roughly half of all homes in Richmond are underwater and some homeowners owe three or four times what the home is worth, and while housing prices are beginning to skyrocket in more affluent Bay Area communities, Richmond remains mired in underwater mortgages. Last year ACCE reported that 900 Richmond families lost their homes last year while 4,600 remain $700 million underwater on their mortgages.

MRP will pay off bond holders close to the current value, and then sell the new the new mortgage to the homeowner less than the previous amount. The city has sent 32 banks and other mortgage holders an offer to buy 624 mortgages. If the offers are denied the letter indicates that Richmond may use the power of eminent domain, condemn the mortgages, seize them, and pay court-determined fair market value. City leaders indicate that the purpose is to stabilize the community and prevent foreclosures.

Banks and investors are vehemently opposed to the idea and Chris Killian, managing director of the Securities and Financial Markets Association, a trade group that represents banks and securities firms says that “We think it is unconstitutional, illegal and very bad policy. Mortgage lending is a business, and lenders and mortgage investors have to say what kind of return they want and how much risk they can tolerate. That’s just the way markets work.”

Wells Fargo, the largest mortgage holder in Richmond release a statement: “We believe this approach will harm mortgage investors, the housing market, and the communities and borrowers that its proponents claim they would be helping.”

Mortgage Resolution Partners chairman Steven Gluckstern said, “In Richmond, I see political and community leaders courageous enough to wage this battle and make no mistake, it’s going to be a battle.” MRP who is facilitating the program will offer Richmond the technical assistance, financial backing including all legal costs. In return, the for-profit firm would receive a flat fee of $4,500 per mortgage.

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Bay Area

Board Bars Evictions Related to COVID-19

Several times during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Board has passed resolutions barring evictions for nonpayment of rent arising directly from the coronavirus. Preventing evictions for nonpayment due to financial hardship related to COVID-19 allows the County and its partners to continue making funds available for tenants who have struggled to pay rent. Since spring 2020, nearly 1,260 local households have received County-sponsored COVID-19 rental assistance.

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The County budget is balanced and structurally sound, although national economic indicators are showing signs that the recovery is slowing down.
The County budget is balanced and structurally sound, although national economic indicators are showing signs that the recovery is slowing down.

Protections intended for those experiencing hardship because of pandemic

Courtesy of Marin County

Determined to prevent housing displacement for residents financially hampered by the ongoing pandemic, the Marin County Board of Supervisors took another action June 21 to prohibit residential renter evictions in unincorporated Marin effective July 1 through Sept. 30, 2022. The State of California’s eviction protections are scheduled to expire June 30.

Several times during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Board has passed resolutions barring evictions for nonpayment of rent arising directly from the coronavirus. Preventing evictions for nonpayment due to financial hardship related to COVID-19 allows the County and its partners to continue making funds available for tenants who have struggled to pay rent. Since spring 2020, nearly 1,260 local households have received County-sponsored COVID-19 rental assistance.

The County is continuing to assist tenants who have applied for rental assistance and working with community partners to assure an equitable distribution of federal funds earmarked for eviction prevention. All renters have been protected by state or local laws, regardless of a person’s citizenship status, during the public health emergency. The County continues to process rental assistance applications as quickly as possible with added staff over the past year to accommodate assistance applications.

Rental assistance priority has been given to households that are considered extremely low income, which in Marin would be a family of three with an income of no more than $43,550. Nationally, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are often at the highest risk of housing displacement. The County recognizes that those most in need of eviction protection experience barriers to access such a program. While more than two-thirds of non-Hispanic white residents are homeowners in Marin, roughly three-quarters of both Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx communities in Marin are renters.

Between state and federal funds, the County’s pandemic rental assistance program was awarded $36,414,871 of which $23,970,885 has been distributed to 1,260 local households in need. There is a remaining balance of $8,579,705, which will serve the remaining applicants and waiting list and is anticipated to be spent by September 30, 2022.

Clearing accumulated debt is designed to provide a lifeline to the hardest-hit families and provide income stability for landlords. Several local agencies, such as Canal Alliance, Community Action Marin, and North Marin Community Services, are assisting applicants with the process.

Property owners may call the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at (415) 473-6450 for assistance on rights and responsibilities. Renters are encouraged to contact Legal Aid of Marin at (415) 492-0230, extension 102, for inquiries on eviction protections.

Anyone needing help with the online application may call (415) 473-2223 or email staff to learn more about the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. More information about the County’s eviction moratorium is on the County’s COVID-19 Renter Protections webpage.

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Bay Area

Marin Prepares to Vaccinate Young Children

Parents and guardians should contact their pediatrician to discuss appropriate timing to have their child vaccinated for COVID-19, especially if due for another routine pediatric vaccination. Children in their first 5 years are regularly visiting their pediatrician and vaccines are a routine part of these visits. The COVID-19 vaccine can be given in the same visit as the other important vaccines needed. MCPH will support pediatricians to ensure access to the vaccine over the coming weeks.

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Parents and guardians in Marin County will be able to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments for kids 6 months to 4 years starting this week. (Copyright-free photo from Unsplash).
Parents and guardians in Marin County will be able to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments for kids 6 months to 4 years starting this week. (Copyright-free photo from Unsplash).

New COVID-19 vaccine reduces risk in childcare and youth settings

Courtesy of Marin County

Now that federal and state regulators have approved the use of COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months through 4 years old, local pediatricians, health centers and Marin County Public Health (MCPH) are preparing to vaccinate the nearly 8,000 children in that age group who call Marin County home. Appointments are opening this week.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health Officer. “Until now, 8,000 of our residents – everyone under 5 years – has been excluded from the protection of vaccines because they were too young. Vaccinations will make every setting where kids gather safer, for kids and adults. We’ll all be able to worry a lot less about childcare centers, playdates, parties, and summer camps.”

Community transmission rates in Marin and across the Bay Area remain high. Since the beginning of June, Marin children up to 4 years old have the highest rates of COVID-19 of any age group. Nationally, over 500 children aged 5 or younger have died from COVID-19, making the virus among the top 10 causes of death in children.

The two authorized vaccines are Moderna and Pfizer, offered in lower doses than for adults and older children. Moderna will be for children aged 6 months to 5 years, as two shots spaced one month apart. The Pfizer vaccine will be for children 6 months through 4 years, as three shots over 11 weeks, two within three weeks and a third eight weeks later. The three-dose Pfizer regimen was found to be 80% effective at preventing infection, roughly twice as effective as the Moderna vaccine.

One of the settings that will benefit most from pediatric COVID-19 vaccination is childcare. In Marin, over 80% of school-aged children 5-18 are fully vaccinated, after a dedicated countywide campaign to make schools safer through vaccinations.

“Our childcare providers have been heroes, taking care of our kids since the very beginning of the pandemic while knowing none of the children were vaccinated,” said Michelle Fadelli, Manager of Public Policy and Communications at First 5 Marin. “Now very young children will be safer in childcare, and their providers will be, too.”

ACCESSING THE VACCINE

Parents and guardians should contact their pediatrician to discuss appropriate timing to have their child vaccinated for COVID-19, especially if due for another routine pediatric vaccination. Children in their first 5 years are regularly visiting their pediatrician and vaccines are a routine part of these visits. The COVID-19 vaccine can be given in the same visit as the other important vaccines needed. MCPH will support pediatricians to ensure access to the vaccine over the coming weeks.

Kaiser Permanente, which is the primary medical provider for more than half of Marin households, will welcome children 6 months to 5 years old for COVID-19 vaccination starting Friday, June 24. Parents and guardians can book a vaccination appointment via Kaiser’s call center at (415) 444-4460. Walk-ins or drop-ins are not immediately available.

In addition, parents and guardians will be able to find appointments in a variety of settings – including pharmacies, pediatricians, and public health clinics – online via MyTurn.ca.gov. Select MCPH clinics will offer vaccines to infants and young children without a primary care physician beginning Thursday, June 23. Appointments can be made online via MyTurn and the ongoing schedule will be published at GetVaccinatedMarin.org.

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Bay Area

Oakland Mayor Greets Old Friend at Lakefest

Both Oakland natives, Jones and Schaaf became acquainted when the mayor was an Oakland City Councilmember representing District 4. Back then Jones taught her his breathing/aerobics exercises at his fitness studio in the Laurel District, which the mayor has utilized ever since, and which has been an invaluable tool in contributing to her overall health and wellness.

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Jonathan ‘Fitness’ Jones and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Jonathan ‘Fitness’ Jones and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

At Oakland’s Third Annual LakeFest celebration on June 25, 2022, Oakland Post Ambassador Jonathan ‘Fitness’ Jones ran into longtime friend and supporter Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

As Schaaf exited the stage after making remarks at an event touting Oakland culture through music, dance, fashion, food and more, she greeted Jones by demonstrating his highly acclaimed “breathing aerobics” technique.

Both Oakland natives, Jones and Schaaf became acquainted when the mayor was an Oakland City Councilmember representing District 4. Back then Jones taught her his breathing/aerobics exercises at his fitness studio in the Laurel District, which the mayor has utilized ever since, and which has been an invaluable tool in contributing to her overall health and wellness.

With over 30 years of experience in the health and fitness field, Jones is a member of the African American Sports & Entertainment Group and creator of Breathing Aerobics, a health and wellness company that specializes in teaching specific breathing exercises to improve overall health. He has taught Breathing Aerobics on major television and radio stations, which has earned him the moniker, “Guru of Breathing.”

For more info on Breathing Aerobics go to www.breathingaerobics.com

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