Here’s my wish list for this year.
— In future elections, please grant U.S. voters the wisdom to elect new public servants and remove every member of the U.S. House and Senate, the Florida Legislature and South Florida municipal government who held office for more than two terms.
The jockeying for political power and schoolyard-bullying tactics by elected officials locally, in Tallahassee and in Washington is not only a black eye to the country but a disgrace for democracy.
The fiscal cliff, a combination of a $500 billion reduction in the federal budget and massive cuts to public programs and employment coupled with higher taxes for everyone, is a direct result of political bickering in Washington, which also caused the reduction of America’s credit rating for the first time in history. Let’s clean house in the next four years, Santa, before this group cripples America worse than the current state of paralysis.
— Please give Florida a new governor next election. Our current one has shown he is ill-equipped for the office and, in my opinion, has become a joke in the eyes of the nation. Broken promises and irrational defenses of poor decisions are his two-year record.
Electing the former CEO of Columbia/HCA — a company that paid $1.7 billion in fines after pleading guilty to 14 felonies related to Medicare fraud — yielded the results I expected. Florida voters rejected Scott’s proposed $20 billion tax cuts for small businesses and the constitutional amendment he championed to make it nearly impossible to implement new federal health care initiatives in Florida.
His many embarrassing gaffes in media interviews have led to his 38 percent approval rating among Florida voters. Florida deserves better.
— Banks have selectively begun to accept and solicit short sales of properties in the last two years. Bank of America, Wells Fargo and others have offered principal balance write-downs to a precious few distressed borrowers (about 20 percent) which allowed families to remain in their homes with a fairly valued loan.
Santa, please give bank executives the wisdom to increase principal write-downs to all owner-occupants, not just those behind on their payments, but homeowners who are current as well. Those in good standing should have their mortgage balance fairly valued, too. Bankers need to understand it is in the best interest of the banks and our local and national economies to keep people in their homes and to expedite short sales.
Lenders have decided to settle for greatly reduced returns on loans from short sales transactions and offered cash payments to the defaulting owners to move out. Instead of electing a short sale and different future owner, the best outcome for all involved is a fair principal balance reduction coupled with a conservative 30-year fixed mortgage.
This one wish will bring a major positive change for the country, Santa, and be a saving grace for millions of struggling families. The increasing number of families in homeless shelters, living under bridges or in their cars in the wealthiest democracy in the world is a disgrace. There are 658,000 homeless Americans, of which 58,000 live here in Florida, according to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 2010 report to Congress. I really hope you can find them and bring presents to the children.
— I’m worried 2013 could potentially be the worst yet in this boom-bust-sideways economy, Santa, especially in Florida. There has been some glimmer of hope this year, but I fear next year is going to be very difficult. Our real estate market and values have been artificially propped up by foreign buyers sheltering their money from political and economic turmoil in their home countries.
I expect there will be a flood of foreclosures and short sales in the next two years. While the Multiple Listing Service’s residential inventory is comparable to Realtor listings in 2007, there are five times as many homes in foreclosure. There are over 50,000 open foreclosure cases just in Miami-Dade County. Tens of thousands have lived in their homes for two to four years without making a payment and haven’t received a foreclosure notice yet, portending an increasing number of future foreclosures. Another 40 percent owe more to the bank than the property’s value.
The European debt crisis will continue to negatively affect the U.S. economy. Our own fiscal cliff, if not resolved in the next 11 days could quickly send us back into a recession. The $16 trillion national debt could force interest rates to spiral in the coming years.
— Florida will continue to struggle with high unemployment due to minimal (if any) job growth.
There are over 350,000 open foreclosure cases in Florida as 2012 come to an end. There are 550,000 residential units currently in default, and 42 percent of homeowners still owe the bank more than the market value of their property. The shadow market of distressed properties (REOs, foreclosure and short sales) that has lingered as a distant black cloud is nearing. More owner/debtors of the American Dream” will become underwater and face desperate financial decisions.
We need your help Santa. More than ever.