Calling Florida’s position as the No. 1 state for foreclosures “shameful,” Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, has filed four bills aimed at helping struggling homeowners.
The bills would provide taxpayer support for people who are on the verge of foreclosure, make it more difficult for banks to sue homeowners for additional debt after a foreclosure and crack down on lenders who use false documents in court.
They stand in contrast to another bill that seeks to speed up the foreclosure process, which can take an average of more than two years in Florida. The bill, filed by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, is a rehash of a 2012 proposal that led to protests by consumer groups. Passidomo said the long, drawn out foreclosure process is hurting the market and slowing down the housing recovery.
Soto, who led the protests against Passidomo’s 2012 bill, said his proposals are aimed at taking the state in the opposite direction when it comes to foreclosures.
“These bills represent a vision for resolving the foreclosure crisis where we work with families to save their homes and make them more affordable as well as provide meaningful debt relief,” he said in a statement. “This vision stands in stark contrast to the numerous bills filed over the past few years with the sole intention of kicking thousands of Florida’s working families out of their homes for the sake of expediency.”
Florida lawmakers also have about $200 million in funding available from a national mortgage settlement last year. That money is not included in Soto’s proposal and lawmakers have not decided how to use it yet. Some fear that the money could be swept away into non-housing-related issues, though legislative leaders have promised not to allow that to happen. Florida's foreclosure rate is the highest in the nation and foreclosure filings increased significantly last year.