San Diego’s Foreclosure Hotspots: Fact Check

voiceofsandiego.org, 1/20/12 | Read the original article |

Statement: “There are 57,000 San Diegans losing their homes,” Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, said Jan. 11.

Determination: True

True

 

 

 

 

 

 

Analysis: At his State of the City address last week, Mayor Jerry Sanders outlined his priorities for his final year in office — a laundry list of familiar topics to San Diegans.

Sanders pledged to present a structurally balanced budget and push major building projects like a new Chargers stadium and an expanded Convention Center before leaving. He repeatedly touted success during his tenure, but ignored many of the deep cuts to core city services.

In an interview with KPBS following the speech, Gonzalez criticized Sanders for skipping a different topic. “There are 57,000 San Diegans losing their homes and we didn’t hear anything about how we are going to fix that disaster,” she said.

Gonzalez argued the city’s housing slump should be a greater priority for the mayor. We decided to Fact Check the number of lost homes since Gonzalez used it to accentuate a problem she wants the mayor to tackle.

First, it’s important to put parameters around Gonzalez’s claim. In an email, Gonzalez said she was speaking about people who’d had their homes foreclosed on since 2008 or will have their homes foreclosed this year.

It’s also necessary to recognize a distinction between a foreclosure and actually losing your home. Foreclosure often leads to losing a home but not always. People can get out of foreclosure and still keep their homes.

Gonzalez said she got the number from a June 2011 study by the Center on Policy Initiatives that estimated the number of foreclosures in the city.

We tracked down the study. It pulled historical foreclosure data from RealtyTrac, a real estate firm widely followed by news organizations, and then projected the number of foreclosures this year based on past trends. The study concluded 56,689 homes had been in foreclosure since 2008 or will be in foreclosure this year, which backs up Gonzalez’s claim of 57,000.

The center’s study also showed how foreclosures disproportionally affect central and southern neighborhoods, where some of the city’s poorest residents live. Most zip codes south of Interstate 8 had significantly more foreclosures, as illustrated below.

More foreclosures south of Interstate 8

Because Gonzalez accurately cited the number of foreclosures, as estimated by the Center on Policy Initiatives, we’ve rated the statement True. If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

Unrelated to determining the accuracy of Gonzalez’ claim, I called mayoral spokeswoman Rachel Laing and asked why the mayor hadn’t talked about foreclosures in his annual address. She said a city task force addressed the issue three years ago and the mayor feels his last year is best focused on other projects.

“You have to pick and choose and when writing the State of the City,” Laing said, “it’s priorities. I’m not sure anything’s happened (related to foreclosures) in the last year that warrants being called out in a half-hour speech.”

I asked Gonzalez what she wants the mayor to do about foreclosures. She said he should push a City Council proposal aimed at reducing troubled vacant properties and push divesting city and pension funds from irresponsible banks (like Los Angeles).

“These are just initial thoughts,” Gonzalez wrote. “Unemployment, poverty and foreclosures have ballooned since Sanders took office and he has done very little recognize or address these important issues.”

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about public safety and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?