Our Homes for All partner, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, and RTC member group, Community Voices Heard, recently won a campaign to pass legislation to become the 7th city in the nation to pass a foreclosure bond and the second RTC organization after Springfield No One Leaves. The foreclosure bond will require owners (mostly banks) of properties that are in foreclosure and/or vacant to post a$10,000 bond to the city. If the owners fail to upkeep their properties, then the city can use the money the owner has posted to do so.
Foreclosures have ripped through Poughkeepsie, NY leaving in their wake uprooted families, torn apart communities, and over 700 vacant buildings. RTC member groups Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson and Community Voices Heard have taken on this crisis by passing Foreclosure Bond legislation to hold banks accountable.
Poughkeepsie, NY – Community residents, Common Council members, and community organizations gathered in front of one of Poughkeepsie’s vacant homes to announce a creative community response to the foreclosure and vacancy crisis: foreclosure bond legislation. Activists and political figures described the proposed vacant and foreclosed properties bond ordinance as a powerful tool for shifting accountability toward banks, fighting blight, and generating revenue for cities coping with the after-effects of the foreclosure crisis.
Members of Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, a local anti-foreclosure organization, and Community Voices Heard, an organization of low-income New Yorkers, spoke to the pressing need for the legislation. Poughkeepsie had less than 50 vacant buildings before the foreclosure crisis started. Today it has well over 700. Like other small municipalities with large working class communities of color, Poughkeepsie has born the brunt of the foreclosure crisis, and the blighting, increases in crime, decreases in property values, and fiscal strain that comes with it. Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson organizer Margaret Kwateng concluded, “banks have privatized the gains and socialized the pain of this crisis. Today Poughkeepsie is becoming a leader in changing that equation and forcing Wall Street to clean up the mess they’ve made on Main Street.”
CVH organizer Blair Goodman added, “The banks need to finally step up and own the consequences of their irresponsibility. Now let’s all resolve to enforce this legislation.”
The foreclosure bond was crafted by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an organization created by President Kennedy to advance the cause of Civil Rights. The foreclosure bond ordinance will require banks to give the City of Poughkeepsie a $10,000 bond for each foreclosed or vacant property. If the banks fail to upkeep the properties, then the city can use that bond money to do the upkeep and stop the blight. It provides an actual mechanism of accountability, providing teeth to the existing ordinances and promising much-needed revenue to ensure implementation.
This legislation is the first of its kind in New York State, and only the 7th such effort in the nation. Right To The City Alliance Executive Director Rachel LaForest applauded the effort, saying, “Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson’s winning the Vacant and Foreclosed Properties Bond Ordinance in Poughkeepsie, NY is part of a growing movement. Through the Homes For All Campaign, cities small and large across the country are organizing impacted residents and passing local laws that hold banks and speculators accountable and strengthen community control of our neighborhoods.”
Common Council members applauded the legislation and committed to voting it into law that evening at the Common Council meeting. Council Chairman Robert Mallory said, “This legislation will assist the City of Poughkeepsie in addressing our vacant properties and blighted neighborhoods as well as improve the quality of life.” Co-sponsor Tracy Hermann explained, “This is an invaluable piece of legislation that presents the city with an effective tool to fight urban blight.” Mallory, Hermann, and Councilwoman Ann Perry were joined by Councilwoman ShaRon McClinton who also spoke about the benefits of this legislation: “it will not only address the issues associated with vacant, abandoned, or undeclared properties, but will also bring needed revenue to our city and attract people to move, invest, and remain here.”
The City Administration has been receptive. Corporation Council Paul Ackerman answered questions about the legislation on October 20th when the legislation was first introduced.
As the bond moves forward, organizers emphasize the importance of rigorous enforcement. They have the example of Canton, Ohio to look to. Canton has had success with their version of the bond legislation. Canton’s enforcement officer Kyle Stone said, “The City of Canton’s Fair Housing Dept. is excited to hear of the passing of your foreclosure bond ordinance. The City of Canton’s implementation of our enforcement mechanisms weren’t easy, however it has been successful and we are willing to support the City of Poughkeepsie in their implementation process. Our support will not stop there and we will continue to be a resource for Poughkeepsie in this fight to rebuild our communities and our neighborhoods.”