Objections grow over use of foreclosure funds

By Cassandra Lans

Photo by Jeffery Turner - Source Flickr CC

Objections are continuing to grow over the State’s failure to direct all of the federal foreclosure settlement funds to victims who have lost homes, or facing the prospect of losing them. Last week, MICAH held a press conference that was attended by various city and state legislators including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, voicing their objection to how Governor Walker and Attorney General Van Hollen used $31 million of the settlement for budget holes.

This week, the objections to this decision continues to grow statewide. On Wednesday, Feb. 22 Mayor Barrett and five other mayors from across the state voiced their objections as well. Mayor Al Richards, St. Francis, Mayor John Dickert, Racine, Mayor Al Foekler, Oak Creek, Mayor Keith Bosman, Kenosha and Mayor Justin Nickels, Manitowoc shared at a press conference held in St. Francis how foreclosures have adversely affected their communities and expressed their frustration that foreclosure settlement funds are being used to fix state budget shortfalls, rather than helping local governments who are bearing the brunt of the costs of the foreclosure crisis.

Congresswoman Gwen Moore wrote a letter to the United States Attorney General Eric Holder seeking his intervention as a result of Walker and Van Hollen’s actions. Her letter in part asks Holder”…I respectfully request your Department’s attention to this matter and urge you to work to ensure that all settlement funds are used for their rightful purpose. It is my understanding that the language of the agreement is not yet finalized. I would encourage your Department to work to include language that states that servicer payments can only be used in accordance with the intent and context of the lawsuit.”

She also added, “It is disingenuous for Governor Walker and Attorney General Van Hollen to siphon money from this agreement that was meant to help Wisconsinites to bailout the state budget. The funds from the settlement should be used as they were intended – to help the victims of the housing crisis in Wisconsin whose homes were foreclosed upon. As the language of the settlement agreement is finalized, I urge your Department to work in any way possible to include fair and concise guidelines to ensure these funds are used for their intended purpose.”

Milwaukee County Supervisor Michael Mayo, Sr. weighed in on the issue as well. “Shame on Governor Walker” for choosing to divert Wisconsin’s share of this settlement into the general fund. The purpose of these funds is to help residents avoid home foreclosure. Instead, the Governor wants to use these funds to help balance the budget.

Is Governor Walker, per chance, using these funds to fill holes in a phantom budget? I have experience with Scott Walker’s budgeting style. As a member of the County Board’s Finance & Audit Committee, I worked through nine of his unrealistic budget proposals here in Milwaukee County. These settlement funds would make a difference in Milwaukee and my district in particular. More than 300 homes have been foreclosed in the Sherman Park area since the housing crisis began.

We have partners like the Sherman Park Community Association that are working diligently to keep people in their homes. Approximately 35 homes have already been saved due to other federal assistance.

The relief funds being diverted by the Governor would go a long way to preserving the tax base in Milwaukee County.

Keeping people in their homes should be a higher priority than playing a political shell game. I hope Governor Walker changes his mind before it’s too late.”

Again the public is urged to continue calling the Governor’s office at (608) 267-7303 and Attorney General Van Hollen’s office at (608) 266-1221