African American families in Chicago and nationwide have been hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis, particularly with mortgage lenders exploiting a long history of discrimination in lending and housing. But what happens when they challenge the banks that have evicted millions of families and destroyed their life savings and economic security?
Author Laura Gottesdiener will discuss the book, joined by Martha Biggs and Ebonee Stevenson of CAEC and Jim Harbin from the Resident Association of Greater Englewood, at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, 5733 S. University, Wednesday, October 30 at 6 p.m.
“This is a good day for homeowners and families across the state of Illinois and a big step in the right direction for our economy,” said Rev. Marilyn Pagán-Banks of IIRON, a Chicago-area organizing network.
“We now encourage Congressman Watt to implement common-sense policies like principal reduction to bring relief to tens of millions of homeowners and to jumpstart the economic progress our country needs.”
Community groups and housing advocates have called for DeMarco’s replacement for over a year, faulting him for blocking principal reductions on mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the FHFA oversees.
They argue that reducing mortgage principal to reflect the fair market value of homes that since the housing crash are worth less than what homeowners owe would prevent foreclosures, stabilize the housing market, and boost the economy.
DeMarco has been “the biggest roadblock to our country’s economic recovery,” said Tracy Van Slyke of the New Bottom Line coalition, which has spearheaded a “Dump DeMarco” campaign.
At last week’s action, as 500 people from National Peoples Action gathered at DeMarco’s Washington D.C. home, Reverend Cliff Parks of Illinois Peoples Action noted that Fannie and Freddie control over half the mortgages in the nation, including those of nearly 14 million underwater homeowners. (See video below.)
Elizabeth Scrafford, a DePaul student and leader with IIRON Student Network, read a resignation letter drafted for DeMarco, holding him responsible for 1,800 families facing unnecessary new foreclosures every day that he has delayed approval of principal reduction.
Watt is known as an early advocate for action against predatory lending, Buitrago said.
Noting that he faces an uphill battle to win confirmation from the Senate, Buitrago said Obama should consider installing Watt with a recess appointment. The administration’s previous nominee for the post withdrew in 2011 after Senate Republicans refused to act on his nomination.
Republicans say they want a plan from the administration for eliminating Fannie and Freddie before they consider an FHFA appointment. But IIRON and other groups are calling on Watt to “support the vital role [the agencies] play in ensuring housing opportunities.”
Check out “NPA knocks on Ed DeMarco’s door,” from April 22:
Days after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined the growing chorus demanding the replacement of FHFA interim director Edward DeMarco, fifteen protestors interrupted DeMarco’s appearance Tuesday before the House Finance Committee.
“DeMarco is kicking my family out of my home,” called out Ramon Suero, a homeowner facing foreclosure and one of the five arrested. “Dump DeMarco! Principal Reduction now!
“Ed DeMarco’s policies are putting my three kids, my wife, and me out on the street. If the president doesn’t get rid of him, he’s responsible for putting millions of Americans just like me on street as well.”
Housing advocates have been calling on President Obama to replace DeMarco, who has blocked principal reduction for underwater homeowners with mortgages held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (See previous Newstips here.)
“DeMarco’s actions are driving millions of Americans into foreclosure and record debt,” said Tracy Van Slyke, executive director of the New Bottom Line.
“We are fed up, and it is time for President Obama to act on his promises to America’s middle class by dumping DeMarco and nominating a permanent director who will move principal reduction at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and stand with all homeowners and taxpayers.”
Immigration reform, climate change, the foreclosure crisis: with some disappointment over limited progress on these issues over the past four years, local activists hope more will be done in President Obama’s second term.
They’ll march on Inauguration Day (Monday, January 21, starting at 11 a.m. at the Daley Plaza and rallying at 12 noon at the Federal Plaza) calling on Obama to declare a moratorium on deporations.
A moratorium would be a first step toward comprehensive reform, said Eric Rodriguez, executive director of the Latino Union of Chicago.
“We want the president to be on the right side of history,” he said. “His second term will define his legacy. Will he be the president who deported more people than any other in history, or the president responsible for championing inclusion and equality?”
Immigration raids are a constant threat in Chicago communities today, said Tania Unzueta of the Immigant Youth Justice League; just last week scores of local residents were picked up in raids on a factory and two gathering places for day laborers. IYJL is working to support several families who have members in detention, she said.
“Obama says he wants to do the right thing and keep families together, but we aren’t seeing it in our communities,” she said.
A 76-year-year-old disabled woman facing eviction by Fannie Mae will announce that she will not leave her home, as supporters hold a candlelight vigil tomorrow evening (Wednesday, January 16, 7 p.m., 2334 N. Mason).
Mary Bonelli, whose family has lived in the house in Belmont-Cragin since 1921, was current on mortgage payments when Fifth Third Bank’s online payment system stopped taking deductions from her account, said Sabrina Morey of Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction.
The city’s program of demolishing vacant homes is just “creating more destruction in our neighborhoods” and not making areas any safer, according to leaders in impacted communities.
“There is no community imput or transparency,” said Charles Brown, a leader with Action Now. “They are just coming in and creating more destruction in our neighborhoods.”
“Vacant lots are just as dangerous as vacant buildings,” said Brown, a retired police officer and Englewood resident. “We need to build communities back up instead of knocking them down.”
He spoke as Mayor Emanuel announced the city has demolished the 200th home in what’s being billed as an anti-gang initiative. There are over 15,000 vacant properties in Chicago.
“This top-down approach to the vacant building problems is just wiping out our neighborhoods,” said Action Now president Michelle Young. “We want to bring families back into these homes and have the city invest in long-term solutions instead of quick fixes that don’t work.”
That’s the message of a coalition of senior, disability, community and labor organizations that is hosting an accountability sessions with local members of Congress, Tuesday, October 30, 4 p.m., at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington.
Representatives Danny Davis and Jan Schakowsky have confirmed their attendance, and others are expected, said Gary Arnold of Access Living.
They’ll ask legislators to oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in any resolution of the impasse over the debt ceiling to be considered in Congress after the November 6 election.
Neither Democratic nor Republican proposals – nor automatic cuts set to go into effect if no deal is reached – are good options, said Tom Wilson of Access Living.
Democrats would reach deficit reduction goals with a mix of heavy budget cuts and increased taxes on the wealthy; Republicans have proposed only spending cuts. A “sequestration” plan if no deal is reached would involve 8 percent across-the-board cuts in domestic and military spending.
“Any of the solutions they’re talking about would drive us right back into recession, throw a lot of people out of work, and send the economy into a downward spiral,” said Wilson.
West Side residents will meet Thursday night to discuss a proposal from Action Now to establish a Chicago Housing Trust that would rehab vacant buildings as affordable rentals (Thursday, October 25, 6 p.m., Penn Elementary, 1616 S. Avers).
At a South Side meeting last week, residents spoke up about the problems associated with vacant properties. Action Now leader Charles Brown told about seeing a man taking a young girl into a vacant building; Brown gathered a few neighbors and went to her rescue.
The group has opposed an “anti-violence initiative” by Mayor Emanuel under which over a hundred vacant homes have been demolished, instead proposing a public-private effort they’ve dubbed “Rebuild Chicago.”
“Why tear them down,” said Action Now leader Adeline Bracey. “We don’t need any more vacant lots.” She called for a moratorium on demolitions. “Let’s look at the property and if it’s sound, why not rehab it?”
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