Ten years later, and we in the San Joaquin Valley are still recovering from the housing foreclosure crisis. Thousands were forced from their homes, and many families lost their entire nest eggs.
Some Valley communities are still feeling the social and economic effects.
From the depths of the Great Recession to this day, I have worked to bring home the necessary resources to fight the harmful impacts of the foreclosure crisis. My staff and I brought together partners from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Reserve Bank, and local and California agencies for a series of foreclosure workshops during which participants could meet with counselors and access crucial resources.
We helped victims of the financial crisis with loan modifications or payment deferment programs. We also helped navigate the complex legal and financial problems that many throughout our Valley faced – especially in Merced County.
In Congress, I have opposed loan limit reductions which would make it harder for Californians to get mortgages. I supported federal housing finance reform that winds down Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae while maintaining an explicit federal guarantee to create stability in the housing market. Additionally, I introduced legislation to allow responsible homeowners to take advantage of low-interest rates to refinance existing mortgages.
Every day my staff and I help constituents avoid foreclosure by cutting through red tape at government agencies and mortgage servicers.
But as we all know, affordable, safe and secure housing remains a challenge for many in the Valley and throughout California. That is why last week I supported the largest pro-housing bill to come out of Congress this decade: the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.
The legislation includes provisions that will help lenders provide affordable credit for consumers, businesses and homeowners.
During the financial crisis, many larger banks abandoned people and businesses trying to get smaller loans. Community banks and credit unions have long been the backbone of banking and financial services in the Valley. These smaller local lenders have relationships with the people of the Valley, providing affordable loans for homes, farms and dairies, and small businesses.
A significant portion of the Act removes the unnecessary regulatory burdens that unintentionally prevent community banks and credit unions from providing the affordable loans essential for home ownership and small business growth.
The legislation also provides the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the ability to fight lenders who do not fully disclose the terms of Property Assessed Clean Energy loans. Overall, the legislation clears the way for local banks and credit unions to inject more capital into communities like ours, which will give us more opportunities to grow and thrive.
June is National Homeownership Month. Let’s use this as an opportunity to focus on Merced County’s continued recovery from the housing crisis, especially the importance of home ownership and the county’s economic growth. There is much to be done, but by working together in a bipartisan effort we can help all citizens of the Valley reach for the American dream of owning a home.
Jim Costa represents California’s 16th Congressional District, which includes Fresno, Madera and Merced counties.