City of Lynn Passes Foreclosure Ordinance

Lynn, Massachusetts implements strongest homeowner (and neighborhood and local bank) protections in face of foreclosures in the U.S.

On June 17th, 2013, the City of Lynn, Massachusetts instituted the strongest municipal protections against the negative impacts of the foreclosure crisis in the U.S.

“We’re not here because people don’t want to pay their mortgage but because they happened to buy a home during an unprecedented housing bubble and their mortgage was never affordable,” explained Isaac Hodes, the organizer for Lynn United for Change, the local organization of residents fighting foreclosure in the City that initiated and defined the legislation the City passed. Lynn United and its local allied people’s organizations brought out hundreds for rallies and three City Council sessions that kept their voices in the forefront and ensured unanimous passage of the forward-looking ordinance.

The Lynn Homeowners Bill of Rights expands upon ordinances passed in other Massachusetts cities. In addition to a pre-foreclosure mediation requirement and a requirement of foreclosing banks to put up a $10,000 dollar cash bond at the start of each foreclosure, Lynn also now requires that banks allow former homeowners to pay a reasonable rent to remain in their home until the property is purchased by a new owner-occupant post-foreclosure.

“If the Federal and State government fail to protect the homeowner, then we must do it at the local level. If this prevents one family from losing their home, then the ordinance is a success. Simply put, you either side with big banks and Wall Street or American families; the City of Lynn, Massachusetts decided to side with its people”, declared Tim Phelan, Lynn City Council President.

“We are extremely proud of Lynn United’s effort, the community’s participation, and the stand-up leadership of the Lynn City Council and the local Register of Deeds. The people of Lynn deserve to have their lives and their community made whole; and they came out again and again to make that clear,” explained Grace Ross, Coordinator of the Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending (MAAPL), the 70 member statewide coalition of which Lynn United is a part, as are Springfield No One Leaves and the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team.

The Springfield and Worcester member groups of MAAPL had passed the most forward-looking ordinances at the time of their passage–the language and breadth of which MAAPL and its lawyers have been consistently improving as local member groups have passed more and more homeowner- and community-focused anti-foreclosure legislation. The leadership of another MAAPL member group, the Merrimack Valley Project, also recently passed a pre-foreclosure mediation and cash bond ordinance in the hard-hit city of Lawrence.

“The teeth unique to Lynn’s version of the pre-foreclosure mediation section of this law is that Register of Deeds John O’Brien has stepped up as a leader and is committed to upholding the Lynn law, and will not record any foreclosure deeds unless accompanied by a certificate of compliance from the city,” Grace Ross went on to explain.

Southern Essex Register of Deeds O’Brien said, “this ordinance implemented today by the city of Lynn is the strongest homeowner protection ordinance in the nation. I urge that this law be adopted by other cities and towns across the country.” In addition, Register O’Brien is urging his fellow Registers of Deeds and Recorders across the country to follow his lead. “Communities need to have in place a law that will protect citizens’ property rights, communities, neighborhoods, and equally as importantly, a law that will ensure that the banks are held accountable.”

The District Councilor who helped guide this ordinance to passage, Peter Capano, gave this justification. “The banks had their bail-out, so the people of Lynn have their bail-out now–a little bit for the people who are affected by the economic collapse but have been left out of any national bail-out–we can at least tilt the balance a little. It was how so many different parts of our community worked on this that was really impressive and unusual in this effort. I hope other communities pass these laws as well.”

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The Mass. Alliance Against Predatory Lending (MAAPL) is a coalition of over 60 housing counseling agencies, legal services groups, social service agencies, and community-based social action groups that have joined together to address the foreclosure crisis in Massachusetts. MAAPL collects and distributes timely information on the foreclosure crisis and its effects to the public and to its member groups, drafts and supports legislation that provides important protections to homeowners and tenants facing foreclosure and eviction, documents the impact of the foreclosure crisis on local communities, networks with related organizations throughout the Commonwealth, and provides tools and information to help people navigate the legal system and advocate on their own behalf more effectively when challenging a foreclosure or eviction in court
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