Katie Forde came in a close second in the Democratic Party primary to current Suffolk County Register of Deeds Stephen Murphy in 2016, and this year she believes she'll win. Forde answered questions from Jamaica Plain News about why this time is different, what she would do if elected and how she can help Suffolk County.
Q: You ran for Suffolk County Register of Deeds in 2016 and lost to the incumbent. Why are you running again and why do you think you'll win this time?
Forde: I am running to make a difference as an advocate for the homeowners and aspiring homeowners in Boston, Chelsea, Winthrop and Revere. Home ownership has long been an entry for many into the middle class, but it remains fraught with risk. The Register of Deeds can and should have an important impact on the lives of all Suffolk County residents who own or might seek to own a home by educating residents on the process of home-buying, how to avoid predatory loans, and advocating for policy solutions to the enormous racial inequity in wealth and homeownership.
For too long, the registry has been a landing pad for politicians who have been de-elected from City Council. I believe that the Register of Deeds has a responsibility not only to record deeds, but to serve as a consumer protection agency for those who own or may seek to own a home.
The current Register of Deeds is a career politician who has not used his platform to increase education opportunities for prospective homeowners or provide consumer protection of any kind to residents of Suffolk County. I believe it is time for new leadership focused on expanding opportunities to every resident who wishes to own a home, and to protect those who already own their home. If elected, I will be the first female Register in Suffolk County history.
Boston, Winthrop, Revere and Chelsea are cities in a constant state of development, and residents face numerous challenges in purchasing and staying in their home. I have worked in the legal field for over a decade, and am proposing a practical agenda for the office that reflects many of the lessons I’ve learned through working on property-related matters over the years. I believe the Register of Deeds can make a real difference through consumer protection and education, and I will lead an office focused on serving our communities.
In 2016, I was a first-time candidate in a crowded field. The incumbent had city-wide name recognition, but despite that, I came within 5% of winning. This year, we are running a more robust campaign focused on knocking on doors and having conversations with voters about why they deserve more from this office, and the message is resonating. The register is paid $142,000 a year and has a $2 million budget, and people want and deserve more from that investment.
Q: What did you learn from the previous election that is helping you in this current campaign?
Forde: I first ran for Register of Deeds in 2016 as a first-time candidate with zero name recognition. I was endorsed by both the Boston Globe (the first time it had ever endorsed in a Register of Deeds race) and the Boston Herald. I fell short by less than 5% in a 7-way competition.
This year, I started my campaign outreach and fundraising earlier in the process. That has allowed us to hire staff, better coordinate volunteers and outreach to community groups, and to buy the supplies we need to be successful, like palm cards and mail pieces.
I learned in 2016 that not a lot of folks know what the registry does, or can do, to help consumers, protect their homes, and advocate for increased access to homeownership. The register is an elected official with a bully pulpit, and that should be used to strengthen every neighborhood in Suffolk County. This year, I am attending community meetings every week to hear from folks about the challenges they’re facing and talk with them about how the registry can help.
Q: What have you been doing since the previous election?
Forde: When I ran in 2016, I was pregnant with twins. Abigail and Cecile joined our family in February of 2017, and we’ve been a new kind of busy since then. In addition to moving to West Roxbury, having the girls, and continuing in my role as a senior paralegal at Todd & Weld, LLP, we recently adopted a new dog.
In 2016, I shifted my focus to campaigning for Hillary Clinton, and in 2017, I volunteered for campaigns for city council including Annissa Essaibi George, Ayanna Pressley and Lydia Edwards.
Q: What qualifies you to be the Suffolk County Register of Deeds?
Forde: Since I moved to Massachusetts in 2005 to work for MassEquality, I have been organizing my community to further our shared progressive values. As a paralegal at a bankruptcy practice, I managed teams and drafted and filed deeds. Today, as a senior paralegal at Todd & Weld, LLP, I manage paralegals, staff, and clients throughout the legal process.
The Register of Deeds has a responsibility not only to record deeds, but to serve as a consumer protection agency for those who own or may seek to own a home. Boston is a city in a constant state of development, and residents face numerous challenges in purchasing and staying in their home. I have worked in the legal field for over a decade, and am proposing a practical agenda for the office that reflects many of the lessons I’ve learned through working on property-related matters over the years. I believe the Register of Deeds can make a real difference through consumer protection and education, and will lead an office focused on serving our communities.
Q: If elected, you say you would increase homeownership education and protections. How would you accomplish those goals? You mention partnering with nonprofits to help, which nonprofits interest you?
Forde: I’m proud to have the support of Attorney General Maura Healey, and I look forward to partnering with her office to better protect consumers, seniors, and veterans. Predatory lending is a critical issue, and it is important that as folks buy homes, they know what to look out for from their mortgage company.
The registry is a hub of information, and can be a source to identify trends in predatory lending or mortgage-selling, which can be an early warning sign of a financial crisis. As register, I will work with the AG and other partners in city and state government to make sure consumers know where to turn for help.
A critical part of protecting a person’s home is education. People can’t protect their apartment or the home they own without understanding the risks of predatory lending, the programs that exist to assist them, and how to navigate that. I will work with organizations like Metro Housing Boston and Urban Edge to amplify and advocate for increased resources for their work.
Q: You have stated you want to close the racial wealth gap, pointing to statistics that 80% of white families own a home in Boston while just 1/3 of black families do. You'd like to promote existing state and city funded programs that help with down payments and home loans. What programs and how would you let people know about the programs?
Forde: The average black family in Massachusetts has an $8 net worth, and the average white family has a $250,000 net worth. A huge contributor to this continued inequality is the gap in homeownership. This is why it’s so critical to have good government at every level and elected leaders who share our progressive values. We need to work together -- from city council to state rep to Register of Deeds to Attorney General -- to coordinate and collaborate to reduce inequality.
From the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development to Metro Housing Boston (MHB), there are existing programs and non-profits that are doing incredible work, and all of our communities would benefit from amplifying that work. MHB in particular provides a continuum of services to help people access affordable, stable housing, and their Family Economic Stability program provides specialized support to those with children who need assistance.
As register, in addition to advocating for increased funding for programs like MHB’s, doing outreach, and amplifying on social media, I’ll lead community canvasses to make sure that people in every neighborhood are being included and given the opportunity to participate in programs that can assist them with staying in their home.
Q: What other initiatives would you implement if elected and why?
Forde: If elected, I will be a register that works with both community groups and homeowners to improve access and services. My top priorities are: (1) Instituting a Lawyer-of-the-Day program to give homeowners and prospective homeowners access to lawyers who volunteer their time to help with questions about titles or other issues that might be on residents minds relating to their home, (2) creating an opt-in Consumer Notification Service to let people know about predatory lending practices and scams that increase the risk of foreclosure -- a simple and essential step to help residents protect their home and financial investments, just like monitoring their credit, and (3) providing educational programs and resources to homeowners and prospective homeowners to empower and keep folks in their homes.
Q: On your website you write "you are entitled to a full-time register, who is committed to showing up for work every day." Does the current Suffolk County Register of Deeds not work full-time or show up to work on a regular basis? If so, what is your proof of these beliefs?
Forde: In 2015, the incumbent was de-elected from the Boston City Council after a thorough Boston Globe analysis about his absence from City Hall. Andrew Ryan wrote, “The Boston city councilors pushing hardest for significant raises, arguing that their service has been 'undervalued',” have had the poorest attendance at City Council hearings since January 2014, a Globe analysis shows.” My opponent had attended fewer than 25% of the hearings on pay increases, which he lobbied hard for.
I am not in this race for the paycheck or the pension. I moved to Massachusetts in 2005 to work for MassEquality in the fight for marriage equality, and have worked on countless races to advance our shared progressive values since then, including state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, City Councilor Matt O’Malley, and Attorney General Maura Healey, all of whom I am proud to have supporting my candidacy.
Q: What else should people know about yourself, your campaign and the Suffolk County Register of Deeds?
Forde: As the wife of a veteran, the mother of twins, and a new homeowner, I know what it’s like to have to cut through red tape to access the services you need. But I know that we can do better, and I am running to be the next register to work with every community. One component of this work is the Community Preservation Act (CPA), which is a critical part of the effort to involve community members in the future of their neighborhood and to support affordable housing and green space. Since 2002, the CPA has allowed for surcharges on real estate transactions to be collected to support historical preservation, community housing, and green space.
I support increasing state funding for the CPA. The CPA offers a unique opportunity for community members to have a voice in the conversation about how our neighborhoods grow. I will work with the Legislature and advocate for increased investment in these programs.
The registry plays a critical role in collecting fees to support the CPA, and should be engaging residents and organizations dedicated to keeping our cities accessible, affordable, and green. As register, I will lead an office committed to expanding the CPA, assisting homeowners and those who wish to own a home have a seat at the table, and ensuring that we are getting the word out about these opportunities for funding in every neighborhood.