Meeting with McNerney | February 1, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - February 1, 2008

Meeting with McNerney

by Janet Pelletier

Tri-Valley leaders who were in Washington, D.C., attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors last week held a group telephone interview with reporters while they met with U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney.

The representatives, from Danville, San Ramon, Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore, told the congressman they are seeking $2.6 million to help homeowners who are facing foreclosure in the downturn of the housing market.

"A portion would appropriate for educating those families … giving them credit counseling and then specifically working with families who are imminently facing foreclosure," said Danville Mayor Candace Andersen.

The moneys would go to the Tri-Valley Housing Opportunity Center, a facility located in Livermore that was created two years ago by the five cities in the region to help first-time homebuyers and others seeking affordable housing. The center provides education counseling and offers prospective buyers better deals with approved lenders that partner with the center.

Andersen said since the housing center already has an ongoing relationship with lenders, the new program the mayors are proposing will utilize those lenders to help homeowners with such things as buying down the interest rate, extending the life of the loan and refinancing.

Funding from this program would stay with the housing center if a homeowner sells their home - it would not be a gift, she added.

"If they sell the property or otherwise transfer it, then the housing authority would be repaid and that money would be available to another family in need," Andersen said.

In two years' time, the housing center has helped 75 families, and the proposed funding aims to assist 50 families on a cyclical basis, Andersen said.

San Ramon Mayor H. Abram Wilson touted the plan, saying, "This would be the prototype for all cities in the U.S. so we're really excited about this."

Although Pleasanton has fared well in light of the subprime mortgage crisis, Mayor Jennifer Hosterman said it's prudent to prepare ahead of time should the crisis spread from relatively close cities such as Stockton and Modesto.

"Everyone is extremely concerned about confidence in the market," Hosterman said. "Certainly, any slumps in the economy will be felt by us as well, but it's a trickle-down and we're not feeling it in Pleasanton yet, but we could."

The mayors stressed the importance of working together on regional needs, such as housing, the economy and transportation.

"This year, we recognized that with so little funding available that we wanted to make sure that our requests were regional in nature and that is the reason for all of us being here together," Hosterman said.

Another issue discussed with McNerney was securing additional funding for a East Bay Regional Communications System, through which police and fire officials can work together in emergencies. A total of $808,000 has already been earmarked for the project, and McNerney will request an additional $3 million in federal funding.

"There's about $70 million of infrastructure that we need to build," said Bill McCammon, interim executive director for the East Bay Regional Communications System, who was also at the meeting. "Of that, we've received $33 million in grants, so we're about half the way to getting it built out."

McNerney said he is continuing efforts to ensure that the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Livermore isn't sold for private development.

The mayors also requested additional funding for an eastbound carpool lane along Interstate 580, which is already in the works.

Hosterman said the project is expected to break ground this year with completion in 2009. She said it is projected the new lane will decrease traffic delay time in that lane by 70 percent and substantially help commutes times in the mixed lanes.