To the editor:
Florida has a history of land booms and busts. If we are to have a stable economy, instead of a rollercoaster ride of growth and depressions in this state, then we must ensure citizens investing in Florida real estate are protected from scams and predatory lending. For example, P and B, a couple from N.Y., stated they had invested in Florida real estate in the 80's and hoped to use that investment to create a retirement home. However, they later found out their hard-earned money was part of a land scheme and there would be no retirement dream home - they were sold undevelopable swamp land. Because of this, P and B decided to never again invest in Florida and told all of their family, friends and co-workers of their ordeal.
Protecting homeowners is the way to re-build our economy. But currently, Florida House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 1666 would undermine homeowner's rights in the court system - and give the banks more power, doing the opposite.
Since the latest banking/housing crash, many everyday citizens have been affected. People lost homes while the banks received bailouts. The bailouts were provided with the agreement the banks would voluntarily assist homeowners in modifying or changing terms of mortgages so that affected homeowners could receive relief. Many people were laid off following the crisis due to the domino effect. Everything is connected. If your neighbor loses his home, then he is no longer there to hire the plumber, the lawn person, the electrician, or go to the local hardware store, dine or shop. Then those business owners begin to feel the effects. Eventually they lose their businesses and lay off more workers. And until housing is stabilized and homeowners protected, this will continue.
After hearing a small business owner state she was fearful of losing her home, I did some research. The majority of homeowners are almost "three times as likely to own a business", according to Habitat for Humanity. So, it's surprising when HB 87 and SB 1666 are supported by the Florida Chambers of Commerce, because they would essentially be hurting their own if the bills go through. We can all agree that when Americans have access to the American Dream of homeownership the overall economy is stabilized.
Since the crisis, there are still many people dealing with the banks. Many people I have spoken with say they have used up retirement savings and 401(k)s to get through the crisis or even assisted family members to stay afloat during the crisis. Some who qualified have asked for modifications only to be turned down by the big banks for no reason. Others are stuck in fraudulent and predatory fine print mortgages like a law enforcement officer I became aware of stuck in an interest -only loan.
Homeownership enhances a community. If we remember, there was a time when only the wealthy elite owned homes - people that lived on their lands were serfs, servants, or tenant farmers. That system was the reason many came to America - to escape from that way of life. In places like Brazil, there is a great divide between the rich and poor. Is that what we want for our community, some living in tents, while others live in mansions? We can do better.
Our nation is tied to the idea of home ownership. If the average hardworking person loses the chance or opportunity to own their own home, then the American dream is in jeopardy.
Currently if someone is experiencing difficulties with a bank that refuses to modify or assist them with their mortgage there are some options they may qualify for.
There is currently a debate on how Florida homeowner settlement funds, $334 million , obtained through a state lawsuit against the banks for homeowners should be used. Many are urging these funds go to the Hardest Hit Homeowners. You can contact your local representative to urge them to give the money obtained through the lawsuit to the people it was intended for, those affected by fraudulent mortgages or the foreclosure crisis. You can also visit The Hardest Hit Fund website for more information: www.flhardesthithelp.org
If you need further information, these agencies may be able to help;
n Making Home Affordable, is a government site designed to put homeowners in touch with housing counselors and programs they may qualify for that may help; visit www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/pages/default.aspx
n The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is an agency working to protect consumers rights including consumers rights with the banks, visit www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint,
n HUD-is a government agency that provides seminars for those looking to buy a home, some grants and assistance for homeowners and housing counseling, portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD
n Elected Congressional and State Representatives should have caseworkers that may also assist you and advocate for citizens in their district. You can find out who your elected officials are by going to www.congress.org
former constituent caseworker & MSW