As a Realtor, I've seen a lot of negotiating tactics. Sometimes, when one side knows it's losing, it will resort to scare tactics. We're seeing such tactics right now, here in Richmond, by Wall Street bankers and expensive lobbyists from my own industry who are trying to scare folks into letting their homes go into foreclosure.
Their bullying isn't working. Despite threats that the city's ability to carry out its business would be harmed because of Wall Street's anger with our anti-foreclosure program, recent news says otherwise: Our financial health is getting stronger, even as our community stands up to Wall Street to implement the Richmond CARES foreclosure prevention program.
In March, the city's credit rating was upgraded to AA- (which is one notch ahead of A+) by Standard and Poors, its bond refinance offering received more bids than is typical, and the refinance program is generating greater savings than had been anticipated this past summer -- despite a delay in refinancing due to perceived nervousness by the market about the CARES program.
So what was so scary about this CARES in the first place? The Community Action to Restore Equity and Stability program will help struggling homeowners whose loans are owned by pools of investors and who can't get help from other foreclosure prevention programs.
The city, working with private partners, is going to acquire troubled loans, restructure them so that they are affordable and sustainable, and help these homeowners stay in their homes.
Wall Street has lied repeatedly about the program. They lied to homeowners this past fall by telling them this was a land grab and they would lose their homes.
They lied to investors about Richmond's bonds by saying this would make the city a huge credit risk. Everyone can now see that neither of those assertions was true, which is why the community supports CARES and investors are lining up to buy Richmond's bonds.
The CARES program is still in its early stages of implementation, so the city's good financial news cannot be attributed to the program. Nor can the program be blamed for harming the city's financial health or stability. The facts are the facts.
And the current numbers don't tell the whole story yet. The implementation of the CARES program will give an added -- and sizable -- boost to our local economy, and the city's finances.
Foreclosures bring down home values. Foreclosures lead to blight and increased crime, which cost the city money. By getting more homeowners into stable mortgages, some foreclosures will be avoided, thereby avoiding these negative consequences. Lower home values mean reduced property tax revenue for the city.
Additionally, by reducing mortgage debt for hundreds of residents, we will have our own local stimulus program. With more money in their pockets, these homeowners -- consumers -- will be spending more, giving our local economy and our local businesses a boost we really could use right now.
Finally, our city will have an opportunity to reshape our own story: from a community reeling from the financial crisis, down on its luck, surrounded by more affluent neighbors, to one that has decided to take Wall Street head on, save homes and control our own destiny, setting an example that will reverberate across the nation.
City Councilman Nat Bates, running for mayor this year, keeps saying we have to "get right with the banks." But it's Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and her fellow champions of the CARES program -- including Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles, Councilman Tom Butt, and Councilman Jael Myrick -- who have it right, in saying we have to "stand up to the banks" and hold them accountable for the damage they have done.
Thank goodness Richmond has brave and forward-looking elected leaders who are willing to do what's right for the people of this city.
Cynthia Burke is a licensed real estate broker and longtime Richmond resident.