(Editor's Note: Tewksbury Patch asked the Democratic candidates for state representative and state senator five questions on issues related directly to Tewksbury. This is the final entry in the series. Questions 1 through 4 ran Thursday through Sunday and the entire series can be found here.
Question 5. With rising property taxes, high unemployment, falling home values and floundering banks, many residents, especially the elderly, are concerned about losing their homes. What can you do, if elected, to protect the residents of Tewksbury from losing their homes?
State Senator, 2nd Essex/Middlesex District
Jack Wilson, Democrat, Andover
As state senator, I will fight to ensure that state resources are made available in the Town to protect residents against foreclosures and losing their homes. The state's most vulnerable citizens, many of whom are seniors who have spent a lifetime working and contributing to the community, must not be abandoned when they need assistance. We need to do a better job of educating residents as to what can be done early on should they face financial difficulties, and we can do that by linking up town residents with the state's department of housing and community development. As state senator, I will also work with lenders to make sure that they do all they can to help struggling homeowners remain in their home during times of difficulty.
Barry Finegold, Democrat, Andover
As part of the housing bill, I voted to extend the time a bank can foreclose. I also supported reducing the interest for seniors who want to defer their property taxes. We also need to create more affordable senior housing. People that have lived in town a long time should have options to stay in their community.
Debbie Silberstein, Democrat, Andover
With specific regard to seniors, when I was a member of the Andover Council on Aging I brought forward for Town Meeting approval, along with the then director of the Senior Center, the first senior property tax voucher program for Andover seniors. This has proved to be a very popular program. I will continue to support this at the state level. I will also support 40B which helps to provide affordable housing to seniors and working families—and also provides construction jobs. I will also find creative models being used elsewhere in the state and in the nation to help seniors stay in their homes. I currently serve on the board of TAVAH—a model for using private sector resources and talent to help seniors stay in their homes.
Our communities rely far too heavily on the property tax, a regressive tax, as their primary source of revenue. We must work to find new sources of revenue for municipalities so that property taxes can be reduced. Again, this is another example of a 21st Century government acting with a 19th Century tool set.
State Representative, 17th Essex District
Pat Commane, Democrat, Andover
Obviously, this is a very painful issue for our neighbors, particularly the elderly, who find themselves in this situation. Recently, a temporary bill was passed by the legislature, extending the foreclosure notice from 90 to 150 days. This extension is critical to help keep people in their homes. This extension gives borrowers more time to catch up with past due payments and time to renegotiate mortgage terms. Because of the generosity (too much) of taxpayers, banks are not floundering but are doing little in terms of making credit and renegotiated mortgages accessible to people. Banks may be encouraged by pending federal legislation to open up their credit practices. One thing I would push for, is to encourage Massachusetts state bank accounts and pension accounts, to move business away from banks that are unwilling to lend to community banks and credit unions that do.
The following candidate did not submit a response to this question: Frank Bonet, Democrat, Lawrence.
State Representative 19th Middlesex District
The following candidate did not submit a response to this question: James Miceli, Democrat, Wilmington.