“The typical streets now have a couple of homes that are for rent, for sale and a couple more that have recently sold or are pending in bankruptcy,” Robert Kalafate told the council on Aug. 11. “Several of these homes could be categorized as blight or nuisances. And other neighbors in adjoining properties have taken the example and just stopped caring for their properties. Brown lawns and ‘for sale’ signs on distressed and vacant properties are a welcome mat for would-be vandals and squatters, which increases the law enforcement costs in an already strained budget.”
Antioch has had 2,300 houses go into foreclosure, with another 2,000 foreclosures expected, according to RealtyTrac.com, said Kalafate. “Banks have done little to maintain the properties, and we are seeing the results today,” he said. “Home values have declined. And I believe that part of the price decline is the unkempt front properties.”
Kalafate, who came in third in the city treasurer’s race in 2008, cited a state law that allows cities to require the bank that owns a foreclosed property to keep the property maintained or face a fine of $1,000 per day. The City of Stockton, which has had three times the number of foreclosures as Antioch, has used that law to hire companies “to clean up and green up” properties in that city, he said.
“These banks have received economic stimulus money in the billions,” he said. “That money can be directed back to Antioch’s business community. Local businesses can provide the products and services to re-sod, to clean up the properties, to paint the lawn and provide weekly landscaping. I request the council to take the steps appropriate in an urgency ordinance and obligate the banks to green up the next wave of 2,000 foreclosures.”
But the council did not follow up on that request, citing a lack of city staff to do the work necessary to require the banks to maintain their foreclosed properties.
“I feel bad because … (of) the amount of homes that have been left in such disarray and the inability of being able to go after them because of the lack of staffing to follow up,” said Councilwoman Mary Rocha. “It puts our code enforcer in a bad situation.
“We’ve tried. (Councilwoman) Martha (Parsons) and I hoped we could help out in the community. At this point we were told that the graffiti committee (with volunteers) would probably be the best way to go first. And then perhaps establish something that would be supportive to the home foreclosures. So we are aware of it, we understand it. But it’s the staffing time that it takes to go after those properties in trying to go through the process. Believe me, it’s a headache.”
City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland seconded Rocha’s remarks, saying that the City Council has already adopted an ordinance requiring that foreclosed properties be maintained, adding, “It’s a staffing issue, not an ordinance issue.”