In L.A., Kamala Harris calls settlement 'tremendous victory'

Striking a populist note, California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris appeared at a downtown Los Angeles news conference and praised the Golden State’s share of a multi-state settlement as a “California commitment” that represents a “tremendous victory.”

Harris said that the state’s piece of the multibillion-dollar settlement was right for the most severely affected parts of the state. She also rejected claims that the controversial deal was a handout to people who did not live up their commitments.

“This issue has never been about anything other than allowing homeowners, hardworking people, to be able to stay in their homes,” Harris said. “And we were very determined to make sure that California, the hardest hit in the country, would receive its fair share.”

Troubled underwater homeowners in California can expect $12 billion in principal write-downs, including  through short sales, over the next three years, according to the state attorney general's office.

And taking into account a complex series of credits designed to encourage the big banks to make payments to homeowners, California’s share of the settlement could climb to as much as $18 billion. That aid would go to hundreds of thousands of borrowers, many in the areas of the state that were hit hardest by the housing bust.

After walking away for a time from the drawn-out settlement talks, state negotiators secured what appears to be the most sizable chunk of relief of any state in the pact. That includes several guarantees specific to the Golden State, many of which were negotiated in around-the-clock, down-to-the-wire sessions over the last two weeks.

In her news conference, which was announced past midnight on Thursday (a testament to how fluid and down-to-the-wire negotiations over the deal were) Harris said that part of the reason she had held out for months on a settlement was because she had seen for herself the devastation that the housing crisis had wrought in the Golden State.

 “We have spent time in Stockton, Calif., we have spent time in East L.A., talking with homeowners who all share stories that represent some of the worst of human experience,” Harris said. “We have talked with those homeowners about the fact that they believe in the American dream; they worked hard, they play by the rules, they bought a home, they were paying their taxes on time, their bills on time."

"And then they found," she continued,"through a series of situations that included a turn of the economy and losing their jobs, that they were in the process of foreclosure.”

Protestors from Occupy L.A. outside her news conference denounced the agreement as too little for California’s homeowners.


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