SACRAMENTO – THE National Asian American Coalition (NAAC), the National Diversity Coalition (NDC), pastors, housing advocates and members of the state legislature’s Senate and Assembly Republican Caucuses celebrated the recent court victory on the return of the $331 million to the National Home Mortgage Special Fund with a press conference and victory rally in front of the South Side steps of the State Capitol Building last August 14, 2019.
As previously reported in the Asian Journal, the California Supreme Court denied a review of a lower court ruling that ordered the return of the money to the fund that aids distressed homeowners in the state.
The $331-M, returned funds money obtained by California as part of a settlement with the nation’s five largest banks for fraudulent lending practices which led to millions of people losing their homes due to foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies, was diverted by former California Governor Jerry Brown to plug in the state budget’s shortfalls and pay off existing state debt.
Current California Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced a plan to funnel the money through nonprofit organizations to help both homeowners and renters in the state who are encountering housing issues that complies with the court ruling, although details have yet to be finalized.
In the press conference, Faith Bautista, president and CEO of both the NAAC and NDC, hailed the victory as meaningful and lamented the fact that it has taken years to get this ruling.
“We’re losing people’s lives, people are suffering and we cannot make a decision. What is wrong with that? [What] we’re asking is to do it now and include the people that have been involved. And we want to work with the Governor, we want to work with all the state’s legislators to do the right thing,” Bautista said, as she also talked of advocates and homeowners who succumbed to the pressure of losing their homes and, in turn, their lives.
Steven Sugarman, general counsel of NDC, remarked that the return of the funds “can really make a big difference.”
“What we have here is a group of people who understand what the needs are, and understand how to solve it and where we need to go from here… What we really appreciate with the legislature and with all the community leaders is that there is no fatigue and the inspiration to go and make sure that the court follows through, the public follows through, that these funds will be used for the highest impact, and that homeowners will be helped. We’ll help as many as we can. We’ll preserve them in the houses, and those who have been cut off from credit over the past few years will get access to credit. We’ll help reverse the trends in the African American home ownership market, and the overall home ownership market,” Sugarman said.
Members of the Republican Caucuses of the State and Assembly, who supported the NAAC, the NDC and the other plaintiffs in the long court battle for the return of the funds, congratulated the groups’ effort and promised to closely monitor how the funds will be disbursed.
“Without you fighting on behalf of every California homeowner, we would not be standing here with a victory today… I also want you to know that legislative Republicans have been on your side since 2015. When the Supreme Court decision came out, [Assembly Republican] Leader [Marie] Waldren and I wrote a letter to the Governor and we said, ‘Return that 331 million dollars that was stolen from homeowners!’… We want you to know that we are holding the Democrats and the Governor accountable,” State Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove told the group.
Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldren echoed Senate Republican Leader Grove as she congratulated the group and remarked that “the actual justice has been served… and that we appreciate your steadfastness and we’re here to celebrate with you.”
“We’re very, very thankful that the courts ruled appropriately in this matter. We’re living in a very interesting time in history. Part of what we used to call the American Dream was home ownership. And that dream is becoming fantasy for too many people. And those of us who own homes are having difficulty retaining that privilege and that dream. So it is my hope that all of us can will band together and be the voice for those who are not here. And we all need to realize the true blessing that home ownership brings,” Assemblymember Tom Lackey stated.
Assemblymember Jay Obernolte, for his part, said, “If you think about it, this is really a pyrrhic victory because there are tens of thousands of people who should have kept their homes with this money who were unable to and who lost their homes…But at least we are going to have this money now to help people acquire and stay in the homes that shelter them and their families. So I call on the Governor to allocate this money for the purpose it was intended for, and to help Californians acquire and keep their homes.”
“I am Vice Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee and I pledge to you in this coming year that we are going to make sure that this money gets put to the appropriate uses… I want to thank you for your fierce advocacy on this issue… I do not want to squander this money and I want to make that we return California to a place where people can aspire to own their homes and where state resources are put to their appropriate use to help them to achieve that dream,” Assemblymember Obernolte added.
Assemblymember evon Mathis echoed his colleague’s promise as he issued a challenge to Governor Newsom by saying: “Do the right thing, put the money where it’s supposed to go, and we are gonna be here to hold him accountable.”
Other Republican legislators who stopped by to make brief remarks or congratulate the group included Senator John Moorlach, Senator Ling Ling Chang, Senator Patricia Bates and Assemblymember Jim Patterson.
Pastors, advocates and Republican leaders also called on the Governor to give collective groups like the NAAC and NDC the opportunity to give their input to the process of allocating the money and putting it to the most effective use to help distressed homeowners in the state.
“We are on your side and we will continue to be an advocate for the plan that you are delivering here and will be delivering to the legislature in the future. There are individuals and organizations who fought this fight, and know this space. You understand the difficulties and opportunities, and you’ve also vetted the very programs and organizations that could put this $331 million to work and probably triple or quadruple it as a result of those partnerships. And yet, unfortunately, for some unknown reason, you have been left out of the mere discussion of what to do with the $331 million,” Assemblymember Patterson said.
Patterson added that the money “belongs to the people of California and it needs to be spread to those who are in need of it and be utilized by the programs and individuals who have a heart and a passion for this, and have been doing this good work for homeownership for a long, long time.”
Pastor Jin Sung, who called on all the women present to stand in front with her as she made her remarks, called on the state government to be more inclusive and be more knowledgeable about the needs of the state’s homeowners.
“We would like to respectfully ask Governor Newsom to respond to our request to not only meet, but to collaborate so that advocacy goes to a different level, and thus the economic empowerment dreams of California can be realized… We not only want our voices heard, but we want our voices implemented and impacting the communities that are very, very underserved, who may not have access to any of the programs we advocate for,” Pastor Sung said.
Sung added that the NAAC, the NDC and pastors from different regions, who were among the plaintiffs in the suit, want to be the voice of the community and continually advocate for Californians through programs that offer technical assistance, credit repair, downpayment assistant, and other support structure that can be used by homeowners.
After the press conference and rally, members of the coalition decided to have a stand-in in front of the Governor’s office to demand inclusion in the decision-making process of the disbursement of the funds before heading off to meetings with both Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature.