Monday, July 6, 2009

Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova 's Keynote Speech about Foreclosure Prevention

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Asian Real Estate Association of America
Foreclosure Prevention Seminar



Putting a Face to the Issue

• I’d like to put a face to these crises because it is affecting all of us to varying degrees. Several weeks ago I spoke at a Commencement exercise. A member of the Board of Visitors who had been sitting next to me during the ceremony asked me later if I recalled the gentleman sitting behind us, wearing his academic regalia. I did remember him – a person of substance, probably in his 40’s or 50’s. My friend told me that he was living in a homeless shelter; that he’d previously held a high paying job in finance, but lost his job, couldn’t keep up with his mortgage payments and had lost his house. He now ranks among the homeless in Fairfax County.

The Situation

• Local governments across the Commonwealth have been hit hard by the housing crisis. The downturn has resulted in plummeting housing prices, pulling down our overall tax base with it. Here in Fairfax real estate taxes make up more than 60% of our revenue. Falling home values resulted in an 8% projected loss in revenue over last year – or a projected deficit for Fiscal Year 2010 of $650 million out of a $3.3 billion General Fund budget. My Board closed this shortfall by freezing salaries, making cuts to County programs and services, and increasing the real estate tax rate 12 cents, which keeps the average tax the same as Fiscal Year 2009.
• While our revenue is shrinking Local jurisdictions have seen a significant increase in the number of people needing assistance as a result of the deteriorating economy. In many cases these individuals are the most susceptible to the downturn forcing them from the margin of self sufficiency to requiring assistance for basic needs very quickly.

Acting Responsibly in Fairfax County

• In April our Board unanimously adopted a budget that – this coming year – manages to maintain our highest priorities and funds the most critical human services for the residents who are the most vulnerable in this recession – like the gentleman sitting behind me at the recent commencement.

• Neighborhoods where homes sit foreclosed and abandoned are a threat to stable and safe neighborhoods.


• We led the nation in recognizing early the foreclosure problems in our county and quickly realized that this challenge could also be an opportunity for affordable housing and, during the Chairmanship of Gerry Connolly, we created the Silver Lining Program. To date, 739 people have received foreclosure counseling; 38 first time homebuyers have purchased foreclosed homes utilizing federal, state and local funds for first and/or second mortgages; and sixty other families are currently being assisted by the County as they look for their first home.

• We appreciate the Neighborhood Stabilization funding that the federal government has provided to us and to the Commonwealth; but we have to make sure we don’t forget those who are struggling to stay in their homes.
• As of May 15, 2009, there were 1,347 properties throughout the County that are still owned by lending institutions. This number has dropped significantly from the County’s peak in September 2008 when there were 2,257 bank-owned properties.


What are We Doing to Help



• Comprehensive list of resources on foreclosures available on county’s website at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/foreclosures/

• Housing Counselors available to homeowners’ weekdays from 1-4pm at 703-246-5087. Counselors are certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and can guide people to the resources appropriate for their situation.

• Partnered with Legal Services of Northern Virginia to help citizens access legal information about foreclosures. (Service available through Housing Counseling phone line)

• County has hosted a series of free Foreclosure Prevention Clinics throughout county to make information accessible to residents. Services include sessions with housing counselors, lawyers, and loan specialists. Next clinic is July 11 from 10 AM to 2 PM at Wakefield High School, 4901 S. Chesterfield Rd., Arlington, VA 22206

• Foreclosure also displaces renters and tenants who are living in properties being foreclosed. Department of Consumer Affairs provides counseling for renters weekdays 8-4:30 at 703-222-8435.

We Will Survive

• There is a phrase that is being used widely today that we should never let a serious crisis go to waste. When President Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff first used this phrase I thought it was an original thought. When I googled his remarks later in order to get it right when I referenced him, I found that it had been used 500 years earlier by Machiavelli. Apparently it has been around for a while. It has been good advice throughout the years when we have experienced turmoil and it is good advice today.

• In partnership with the federal government, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and our very engaged Fairfax County community I have no doubt that we will emerge from this current downturn even stronger than before.


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