The Huffington Post
By: Alexander Eichler
May 12, 2012
If San Diego voters had their way, banks would be paying out, big time.
Seventy percent of San Diegans who responded to an opinion poll conducted last month -- including 78 percent of Democrats, and 66 percent of Republicans and Independents -- said they'd like to charge banks $1,000 per day for letting foreclosed homes fall into disrepair, the Center on Policy Initiatives reported this week.
As is the case in many cities, foreclosed and vacant homes are likely driving down property values in San Diego in a major way. The CPI has previously estimated that all of San Diego's foreclosures cost residents a combined $19 billion in lost value.
When banks don't do the upkeep on seized properties, the empty homes wind up being a huge financial drain on the community -- not to mention a hazard for the neighborhood. It's not unheard of for addicts, prostitutes and homeless squatters to move into vacant houses.
Even if the homes don't end up acquiring unwelcome tenants, the foreclosed properties have to be maintained -- lawns must be mowed, windows boarded up, swimming pools drained -- or the likelihood that the homes will ever sell again decreases. Banks are often supposed to cover the cost of this kind of upkeep, but when they don't, local governments end up stepping in instead.
In December, the Government Accountability Office reported that towns and municipalities have had to shoulder these costs more and more during the foreclosure crisis, which is now in its fifth year and shows no signs of abating.
The problem can be especially bad in majority-minority neighborhoods, where lenders like Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank have been accused of neglecting foreclosed homes at a higher rate than they do in predominantly white neighborhoods.
San Diegans aren't the only ones getting fed up with the situation, though. Last year, Cleveland residents rounded up trash from the lot of a foreclosed home and dumped it in front of a local U.S. Bank branch to protest the lack of attention to vacant homes in the area.
More than 70 cities in California already have laws in place similar to the one San Diego residents have said they support, according to the CPI.