Faith-based groups asks administration for more aggressive response to home foreclosure crisis

(CNS photo by Reuters)

Forty representatives of a nationwide coalition of faith-based community organizations asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner Nov. 3 to step up efforts to end the home foreclosure crisis.

Under the PICO National Network banner, the group told Geithner that the Obama administration’s strategy on foreclosures was not working and that a bolder approach to rein in banking and mortgage company foreclosure practices was necessary to end the stream of homeowners being forced out of their homes.

Their concerns were aired just days after RealtyTrac reported 930,437 foreclosure actions nationwide during the third quarter of 2010. That represents a 3.9 percent increase from the previous quarter, but a 0.8 percent decline from the same period in 2009.

Ideally, the group wants to see a freeze on foreclosures until an investigation into the foreclosure process is concluded, said Gina Gates, a parishioner at Most Holy Trinity Church in San Jose, Calif., who was among those at the meeting.

“From my perspective, I think he heard what we said and (he) said what we suggested was smart and was reasonable and that he would go back and check it out,” Gates told Catholic News Service.

The parish got involved because it tracked a high amount of foreclosures in San Jose’s working-class neighborhoods where Latino, Filipino and Vietnamese families live, Gates said.

The group also wants to see the administration appoint a senior-level official to lead the administration’s efforts to fix the housing crisis; adopt an aggressive strategy that promotes the reduction of principal for homes whose mortgages are “underwater”; hold mortgage services accountable for compliance with Home Affordable Modification Program, which is designed to slow, if not stop, the hemorrhage of foreclosures; and require banks to help homeowners who are unemployed and in danger of losing their homes.

Leaving Treasury, the group headed to the White House to deliver the same message to presidential aides.

In San Jose, Most Holy Trinity parishioners were instrumental in a recent campaign as part of the interfaith grass-roots organization People Acting in Community Together to convince San Jose city officials to divert nearly $1 billion from Bank of America into other investments because the bank was unwilling to modify loans to prevent foreclosures.

Bank of America has denied any violation of federal guidelines on forecloses.

The success of People Acting in Community Together has prompted other community groups across the country to look at how similar campaigns might work in their towns, Gates said.

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