BOSTON (AP) — A federal judge heard arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit by six banks seeking to overturn two anti-foreclosure ordinances in Springfield, Mass.
U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor did not immediately rule Wednesday after hearing arguments from lawyers representing the banks and the city of Springfield.
The banks sued after the Springfield City Council passed the ordinances last summer. One of the ordinances would require mortgage lenders to engage in mediation with homeowners facing foreclosure or face a $300-per-day fine. The other would require lenders to put up a $10,000 bond to secure and maintain their foreclosed and vacant properties.
Advocates say the measures will help people stay in their homes and fight urban blight.
"One of the things about the mandatory mediation is that it mandates that all sides explore all commercially reasonable alternatives to foreclosure," said Malcolm Chu, a community organizer with Springfield No One Leaves, a group formed to advocate for homeowners facing foreclosure.
Springfield, a city of about 150,000 in western Massachusetts, has been hard hit by the economic downturn. The number of completed mortgage foreclosures in Springfield more than doubled from 23 in April 2011 to 48 this past April.
The number of foreclosure deeds filed in the first four months of the year was up from 104 in 2011 to 175 this year, according to statistics from The Warren Group, a Boston-based provider of real estate data. A foreclosure deed is typically one of the last steps in the foreclosure process.
A lawyer for the banks declined to comment.
In court documents, the banks have argued that the ordinances conflict with existing state laws, including the mortgage foreclosure statute and the state sanitary code. They also argue that the cash bond amounts to an illegal tax.
The banks suing are: Easthampton Savings Bank, Chicopee Savings Bank, Hampden Bank, United Bank, Monson Savings Bank and Country Bank for Savings.
The city agreed to refrain from enforcing the ordinances while the lawsuit is pending.