"We have to stand up," said Louise Vaughn, a member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. "It's time for us to start talking to each other, writing letters, making phone calls."
A coalition of community groups kicked off their "Refund and Rebuild California" campaign by releasing a report called "The Wall Street Wrecking Ball, What Foreclosures are Costing San Jose Neighborhoods" at a news conference in front of a foreclosed home.
Prepared by ACCE and the California Reinvestment Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates for equal access to banking for low-income communities, the report claims San Jose homeowners will have lost $22 billion in home values as a result of the more than 43,500 homes foreclosed here from 2008 through next year. As a result, the city of San Jose has lost an estimated $135 million in property tax revenue.
"When people lose their homes, it affects all of us," said David Sharples, a member of the alliance. "Property tax revenues plummet, police, firefighters and teachers get laid off. We want banks to give homeowners reductions on their principal so they can stay in their homes."
According to the report, there have been 1.2 million foreclosures
statewide since 2008, "with the number expected to exceed 2 million by the end of 2012." In San Jose, in addition to the 43,544 foreclosures, more than 51,000 homeowners are underwater on their loans, meaning the debt is more than the property's current market value.
As Sharples and others talked, a tight core of activists chanted, "Shame on the banks. Shame on us for putting money in the banks. It's all about the money." Some held signs saying "Stop Foreclosures" and "Save Homes."
The group also claimed that once homes are foreclosed, banks allow them to remain empty and uncared for in the community for too long.
But Beth Mills, spokeswoman for the California Bankers Association, said state legislation passed a few years ago requires banks to maintain a property once it assumes ownership, or risk fines up to $1,000 a day.
"It takes over 300 days to complete a foreclosure," she said. "Banks can't come in and take care of that property until it's officially theirs."
Mills said banks in California and around the country have "been helping borrowers to stay in their homes when possible. We can try, when we can but what's consistently overlooked is that a good portion of borrowers have either lost their jobs or are underemployed and cannot make the mortgage payment."
For them, foreclosure is likely, she said.
After releasing copies of the foreclosure report Thursday afternoon, a couple dozen community activists walked through the Tropicana neighborhood knocking on doors.
"One woman said she's used all of her savings trying to hold onto her house," said Ana Guardado, 46, an alliance member and East Side resident for 27 years. "She expects to lose her home."
As the housing crisis worsened, Guardado said she watched longtime friends move away as they lost their homes on South King Road. "Two years ago, I saw a family standing outside in the yard on Christmas Day, and I decided I had to get involved. The family had all this stuff spread out and they had a Christmas tree in the front yard so their kids could have Christmas."

If you have any question about filing bankruptcy in San Jose, please contact San Jose Bankruptcy attorney or debt relief lawyer at the law office of Geoffrey Nwosu at http://www.nwosulaw.com/ or 408-912-5983. A bay area bankruptcy attorney will discuss your case with you.