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Renters protected from foreclosure eviction face set-back in Merced

POSTED July 27, 2012 10:00 p.m.

Foreclosure doesn’t just hurt homeowners, banks, and the economy at large.

Foreclosure also hurts renters, with more than one million California renters having been directly impacted by home foreclosures since the recession began.

The statistic comes from a new report from Tenants Together, California’s only nonprofit dedicated to renters’ rights.

“Tenants are innocent victims in a foreclosure crisis they did nothing to create,” the report reads. “Tenants and their communities have continued to suffer from banks’ and investors’ poor maintenance of foreclosure properties and their inhumane and irrational policies of evicting all occupants from foreclosed properties.”

Though overall foreclosure activity dropped in 2011, to 177,217 units, approximately 175,000 renters were directly affected by residential foreclosures in 2011. That’s because the percentage of renter-occupied units  foreclosed upon increased. Single-family home foreclosure rates fell, but multi-family property foreclosure rates remained steady.

Some Valley communities, disproportionately affected by the foreclosure crisis, have taken actions to protect renters.

The Fresno County Assessor-Recorder’s office became the first in the Central Valley to contact tenants and homeowners of pre-foreclosure properties, notifying them of their rights.

And the Merced City Council passed an anti-eviction law in November 2011, prohibiting the eviction of tenants after foreclosure unless there is a just cause for eviction. The 4-3 vote made Merced the 16th California city to bar such evictions.

But that measure will soon be repealed, with the Merced City Council voting to repeal the ordinance on June 4. Tenants Together launched a referendum campaign in response, to prevent the repeal from taking effect, and on July 5 delivered the necessary signatures to require the Merced City Council to either reverse the repeal, or place the question on the November ballot.

On Wednesday, the Merced City Council said not enough signatures on the referendum could be validated as belonging to Merced residents, and that the repeal of the ordinance will stand.

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