Finance

California City Becomes 1st to Use Eminent Domain to Aid Homeowners

Richmond, California's leaders approved on Wednesday morning a plan for the city to become the first in the nation to acquire mortgages with negative equity in a bid to keep local residents in their homes.
September 11, 2013
 

Richmond, California's leaders approved on Wednesday morning a plan for the city to become the first in the nation to acquire mortgages with negative equity in a bid to keep local residents in their homes.

The power of 'eminent domain' allows governments to seize private property for a public purpose. Critics say the plan threatens the market for private-label mortgage-backed securities.

Richmond's city council voted 4 to 3 for Mayor Gayle McLaughlin's proposal for city staff to work more closely with Mortgage Resolution Partners to put the plan crafted by the investor group for the city to work.

Richmond can now invoke eminent domain if trusts for more than 620 delinquent and performing "underwater" mortgages reject offers made by the city to buy the loans at deep discount pegged to their properties' current appraised prices to refinance them and reduce their principal.

A mortgage is under water when its unpaid balance is greater than its property's market value.

MRP has failed to get similar plans approved by local governments elsewhere - most recently in North Las Vegas, Nevada and earlier this year in San Bernardino County in Southern California - as the mortgage industry and local real estate businesses rallied against them.

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