Detroit — Anti-foreclosure and anti-eviction activists and victimized homeowners from across the Detroit metropolitan area gathered at the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO union hall for a kickoff rally introducing a new campaign aimed at stopping government foreclosures.
The event was organized to publicize and fight an outrage that has been largely hidden: The United States federal government is currently the largest and most active participant in the foreclosures and evictions affecting millions of families.
The Feb. 13 rally was organized by Detroit Eviction Defense, which describes itself as “a network of homeowners, union members, faith-based activists, and community advocates” that has “rallied neighborhoods, picketed banks, blocked dumpsters, packed courtrooms, and marched on government offices to stop foreclosures and evictions.” It includes the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs; the People Before Banks Coalition; the Occupy Detroit Eviction Committee; Jobs With Justice; and individual homeowners and activists.
In 2008, the government fully nationalized the mortgage industry with the acquisition of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two quasi-governmental (at the time) corporations that owned or guaranteed mortgage loans. A huge 75 percent of all mortgages originated since 2008 are backed or guaranteed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, and most of the rest are insured by the Federal Housing Authority.
The federal government claims to have programs in place to help homeowners facing foreclosure, but the banks and financial institutions have little incentive to modify mortgage loans for homeowners when they are being bailed out by the federal government for the full mortgage value of each foreclosed home. The federal government actually incentivizes the banks to increase the pace of foreclosures and evictions, and it is all done with workers’ tax money.
Rally speaker and anti-foreclosure leader, Jerry Goldberg of Moratorium NOW, told Workers World: “Taxpayers have already forked over $180 billion to cover losses on payments to the banks on failed mortgages insured by the government. According to the January 2010 Congressional Budget Office Report, the CBO estimates the tab for this taxpayer bailout at $389 billion, with many estimates even higher. As of this January 23, there are currently 5.2 million homes with mortgages at least 30 days delinquent or already in foreclosure.”
Fightback, moratorium will stop crisis
Panels of homeowners told their horror stories of how their homes were sold out from under them and put in foreclosure by banks backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. One homeowner made 22 consecutive payments in a trial loan modification only to find out his home had been foreclosed, sold at sheriff’s sale and now he was being evicted. Other homeowners had similar stories and some reported victories because of organizing public pressure and demonstrations against the banks.
People’s fighter and attorney, Vanessa Fluker, denounced “the plan the federal government created where the banks get paid the full mortgage balance, not the fair market value, and homeowners are tossed out onto the street. This is why no one is getting a loan modification.”
This practice, according to Fluker, is “outrageous because it is being done with our tax dollars. The FHFA [Federal Housing Finance Agency] budget is being used to evict people based on fraudulent and outrageous foreclosures. We must crank the fight up another notch. The 10.9 million people who have been foreclosed on since 2007 need to march on Washington!”
Goldberg told the rally: “We need to tell President Obama to stop listening to the bankers and start listening to the people. He doesn’t even need to go through Congress. He can issue an executive order tonight putting an immediate moratorium or halt on all foreclosures until this crisis can be solved. But it is also unconstitutional for the federal government to deprive the people of their property without due process. It violates the Fifth Amendment, and we are going to fight it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be. It will take a struggle. It’s about action. It’s about the need for us to fight.”
Metro AFL-CIO president, Chris Michalakis, opened the rally. Joe McGuire of the Occupy Detroit Eviction Committee gave an overview of the struggle tactics involved in the foreclosure and eviction defense campaigns. The event was co-chaired by Steve Babson of People Before Banks and Jennine Spencer of Detroit Eviction Defense.