Last night I spoke at the Lowell City Council meeting to urge the city of Lowell to apply for the Distressed Properties Identification and Revitalization Grant recently offered by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. The purpose of this grant is to fund a position with Gateway Cities (such as Lowell) which would be devoted to addressing distressed properties within the city and speeding their return to productive use. Funding for the grant comes from the nationwide settlement recently entered into by various attorneys general (including Martha Coakley) that resolved litigation with five major national lenders for abusive mortgage and foreclosure practices. Here are the remarks I gave last night:
Thank you for this opportunity to speak. I’d like to provide some background to the Distressed Properties Identification and Revitalization Grant from the office of Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Reckless lending practices by major national banks were a prime factor the worldwide real estate market collapse of five years ago. These same national banks made the crisis worse through the use of ineffective and sometimes unlawful foreclosure practices. Last year Attorney General Coakley entered into a nationwide financial settlement with these lenders. Because the abusive practices of these lenders had a direct impact on local land records, Attorney General Coakley and her staff have collaborated with the state’s registers of deeds to determine how some of the proceeds of the settlement might be used to rectify some of the harm that was done.
Recognizing that just a handful of troubled properties can drag down real estate values in an entire community, my colleagues and I recommended that the money be used to provide grants to Gateway Cities such as Lowell that were hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis. These grants would be used by these municipalities to hire a person dedicated to attacking these troubled properties and getting them back into productive use. Now throughout this foreclosure crisis I’ve worked closely with many city offices and I know that Lowell is in better shape than most when it comes to dealing with these types of properties but there are still many troubled properties out there. The real estate market has not recovered; it’s just not as bad as it was. By taking advantage of this grant, the city of Lowell will have more resources to devote to remediating troubled properties and as a consequence, will accelerate the recovery of the local real estate market which will benefit everyone.
As the Attorney General’s website makes clear, the deadline for applying for the grant is June 13, 2013 with the award to be made on August 1, 2013.