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Berkeley City Council Backs Eminent Domain to Keep Foreclosed Homes Away from Banks

An article in the Bay Citizen traces the ideas origins to Occupy and a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

According to an article in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, Oakland is the uneasy host of the Occupy movement’s purest incarnation. That may be. But it’s Berkeley City Council that’s turning Occupy’s ideas into resolutions.

Last week, the council voted unanimously to pass a resolution that calls on Alameda County officials to consider eminent domain as a means of keeping homeowners with troubled mortgages in their homes. An article in the Bay Citizen Monday traces the resolution’s lineage back to a self-styled Silicon Valley entrepreneur with a shaky financial past and connections to the Occupy movement.

According to the Bay Citizen, Michael Sauvante has been shopping a plan to local governments that would have counties use eminent domain to complicate the ownership of foreclosed homes, thus allowing public agencies in partnership with nonprofits (like the one started by Sauvante) to retain troubled mortgages and write new, affordable notes.

At the July 31 council meeting, City Councilman and candidate for mayor Kriss Worthington said: "This is twisting the entire concept of eminent domain on its head." He went on to say that the plan would use eminent domain to take property from banks at the request of homeowners. 

Since the collapse of the housing market, only 1.5 percent of all the foreclosures in Alameda County have been in Berkeley. Between 2007 and 2011, there were 407 foreclosures in Berkeley, according to DataQuick. There were 26,466 in all of Alameda County during the same period. 

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Jai Jai Noire August 07, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Yes! Finally a good use of eminent domain. As for long unoccupied and often blighted (to the cost of the cities) properties - especially large ones held by banks - why not take them by eminent domain and covert them to land trusts for use as (truly affordable) limited equity housing cooperatives and for low cost use by worker cooperatives?
Nancy Schimmel August 07, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Yes, empty properties bring neighborhoods down, so this would help surrounding homeowners as well.
Dan McMullan August 08, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Kriss Worthington is brilliant and honest and long overdue in the Mayors chair.
Linda Jupiter November 30, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Not only will this give homeowners a fair mortgage (I'm assuming their mortgages will be at fair market value) they can afford, but the city of Oakland will be getting much needed revenue. I'm hoping we can do the same thing here in Fort Bragg, CA.

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