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Greenfield Recorder – My Turn: Stop Taking All the Equity in Foreclosures Now

Greenfield Recorder – My Turn: Stop Taking All the Equity in Foreclosures Now

I don’t like reading legal notices. The print is too small and it feels like you need a degree in legal studies to understand it. But on April 13 of this year, the city of Greenfield took out a full-page ad in the Recorder listing residents behind on their property taxes. It was in large print and easy to understand language.

It was hard to look away from that, like it’s sometimes hard to look away from a car accident as you slowly drive past it. Is this someone I know? What is the extent of the damage? Could this happen to me? How did it happen? Will they be okay?

But falling behind on property taxes doesn’t happen suddenly and it doesn’t happen out in plain sight for everyone to see. It is always the result of difficult economic times, born privately around kitchen tables, with a lot of anxiety and angst. I absolutely cannot understand why the City of Greenfield feels it appropriate to bring this personal upheaval, perhaps this tragedy, into the public eye.

But of course, this step is necessary when the city decides to move forward with seizing property due to unpaid taxes. It doesn’t matter that the amount of taxes owed ranges from just $54 to $9,000, or that regulations state the city can begin the process only 14 days after property taxes go unpaid.

I want to hear our new mayor say that the city did absolutely everything possible to help our neighbors pay off their tax debt before the city took this action. I want to hear that this is a long process, that the city is offering financial counseling or referrals for free advice, and that local banks are coming on board to help.

But more importantly, I want to hear our new mayor, who I fully support, say that the city has decided immediately to stop seizing 100% of home equity in order to cover property tax debt.

Other letter and article writers have detailed how this seizure of entire home equity, regardless of the size of the debt, is happening in Greenfield and across the country. But almost a year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the practice was unconstitutional. Greenfield and the Commonwealth have not yet updated their practices and laws.

The former mayor said her “hands were tied” because she couldn’t change our practices until the Legislature changed the laws. But that’s not true, because many cities across the state have already ended this practice, relying on the words “may take” in the law to allow them to change their practices regarding foreclosure of the entire equity.

Regarding changing the law, late break from State House News Service, May 1: New Bedford State Sen. Mark Montigny (D), who has been introducing legislation to address this issue since 2018, says that he will attach it “to any document”. passing through the Legislature, it appears he has a better chance of arriving at the governor’s office before the session ends.

Athol Independent Susannah Whipps is co-sponsor. This seems like progress, but let’s not hold our breath, Greenfield.

This practice is not only unconstitutional, it is immoral, it is cruel and must stop immediately.

In the meantime, anyone affected by this upsetting situation should know that at least one lawsuit has been filed against the city. We invite you to contact Greenfield residents Mitch Speight and Joan Marie Jackson or Al Norman for help considering your options. We are so lucky that these activists are dedicating so much time and energy to remedying this situation.

Susanae Glovacki lives in Greenfield.