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UR law students help craft bill to protect struggling Virginians from losing their homes

Posted at 7:45 AM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 07:45:40-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Moving housing equity forward is a tall order that Jay Speer and his agency have been working on for quite a while. The Executive Director of the Virginia Poverty Law Center said Virginia homeowners will soon have new protections aimed at shielding them from foreclosure.

“We are concerned that because of the loss of income for a lot of folks, we could see more foreclosures,” Speer said.

While 36% of homeowners have lost income since the pandemic started, it disproportionately affects communities of color, Speer said.

That’s against the backdrop of an already significant wealth gap in Virginia, he added.

“In Virginia, only 48% of African American families own their home compared with 73% non-Hispanic white households," he said.

His agency collaborated with 10 students from Tara Casey’s Public Policy class at the University of Richmond’s Law School.

Together, they pushed for the Preserving the American Dream Act in the Virginia General Assembly.

Addressing foreclosure was a top priority.

“Under Virginia law, you only have to give somebody a 14-day notice before you can start to foreclose on their home," Speer explained. "This bill will change that to 60 days. Also, the bill would require if a mortgage company wants to foreclose on somebody, they have to send a notice. The notice is going to have to say how much you owe, how much you are behind, and it’s going to say - here are some housing counselors, HUD-certified who can help you. You may need legal assistance and they must give you the number to Legal Aid."

Casey and her U R law students were thrilled the bill passed unanimously through the Senate and is headed to the House.

“That’s what I hope for them is to be able to see their potential to effectuate change in whatever space they occupy. We are living in a time of global reckoning of systemic racism. To be able to use public policy as a tool to address both of these issues, I think is an invaluable moment to seize,” Casey said.

Speer said the bill also tightened the provision of the law that allows creditors to force a homeowner, that they receive a judgment against, to sell their home to satisfy a debt.

Under this bill, that can only happen if the debt is at least $25,000.

Not only is the bill aimed at protecting homeowners from foreclosure, but it will also maintain and improve manufactured home communities and ensure that residents are educated about their rights and opportunities.

To learn more about Senate Bill 1327 and House Bill 2175, click here.