Lt. Governor Fisher Speaks at October Housing Meeting

By Kevin Cleary

On October 1, Lt. Governor of Ohio Lee Fisher was the keynote speaker at the monthly Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting. Social justice advocates, care providers, government and corporate officials and more gathered to hear his address on the ongoing foreclosure crisis.

Fisher began by issuing high praise foe those in attendance.

“Although I have spent many years dealing with a wide variety of human service issues as a state legislator, as Attorney General, and as the CEO for the Center for Families and Children, [there is] one thing I am very confident about today…. Every single person in the room knows more about this subject than I do,” said Fisher.

Fisher’s address focused on the state’s efforts to fight the foreclosure crisis, which he deemed the “elephant in the room.” He also spoke of the broad impact of the crisis in Ohio.

“ The crisis of home foreclosure has touched all corners of our state,” said Fisher.

Fisher told the audience that Governor Strickland had formed and emergency task force to combat the cries and described some of the task force’s recommendations.

He underscored the scope of the problem by stating the approximately $ 1 trillion in adjustable rate mortgages will reset over the next five years in the US.

According to Fischer, the task force issued 27 recommendations, primarily focused on homeowners. Fisher also stated that Ohio would enter into a compact with sub-prime lenders to enact many of the task force’s recommendations.

He spoke of several categories of actions within the recommendations. They included encouraging borrowers to get help, expanding counseling services for homeowners, working with lenders and services, providing options for loan restructuring, improving Ohio’s foreclosure process, strengthening protections for homeowners, and addressing vacant housing and revitalizing neighborhoods.

Many in the audience expressed frustration over the crisis’s impact in Cuyahoga county Steve Wertheim, director of United Way’s First Call for Help, stated that the 211 hotline had received 1500 calls about foreclosures in August, and that the calls were coming from all over the county.

A number of audience members discussed the need for helping individuals with security deposit, as well as reducing the waiting period for those who have filed for disability insurance and Medicaid. Several audience members bemoaned banks and lenders that foreclosed and then left buildings to sit vacant. According to Phil Star, there are over 10,00 back owned properties in the county, and more than 7,000 of those are vacant.

The emergency task force’s recommendations are available online as an Adobe PDF at http://www.com.state.oh.is/admn/pub/FinalReport.pdf.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine, Cleveland, Ohio, Issue 83, November 2007