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Stop banks from taking our homes!

Detroit protest demands moratorium on foreclosures

Published Dec 2, 2007 11:00 PM

Demonstrators in downtown Detroit on Nov. 27 demanded a moratorium on home foreclosures. They were picketing outside a summit on foreclosures hosted by Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and attended by mayors from across the U.S.

Detroit, Nov. 27, outside mayors’ meeting
WW photo: Cheryl LaBash

The summit came the same day a Detroit News article exposed that 72,000 homes went into foreclosure in metropolitan Detroit over the last two years. Some Detroit neighborhoods had foreclosure rates of 17 percent.

The mayors’ conference was closed to the public but open to the banks and financial institutions. These same banks and financial institutions have brought on the housing crisis with their predatory lending practices and racist sub-prime mortgages. In fact, the only proposal emanating from this summit was that the mortgage lenders’ association would set up a hot line for people in foreclosure—in other words, the mayors are relying on the vultures to help their prey.

In contrast, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI), organizers of the moratorium demonstration, demanded that Michigan Gov. Granholm and governors throughout the country immediately declare states of emergency in their respective states and use their emergency powers under the law to place a moratorium to halt all foreclosures. MECAWI organizers point out that such a moratorium on foreclosures was enacted in Michigan and 24 other states during the 1930s and upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The MECAWI protest and the call for a moratorium on foreclosures was covered by the Detroit daily newspapers, the Michigan Citizen, Detroit’s progressive African-American newspaper, TV 2 Fox news, and given extensive play on Detroit’s all-news radio station. Significantly, in press coverage of the mayors’ summit and demonstration, Detroit Mayor Kilpatrick was heard acknowledging that he is for a moratorium on foreclosures and plans to take the issue to Lansing, the state capital. Activists plan to hold the mayor to his words.

MECAWI is planning a community organizing meeting on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 1:00 p.m., at Central United Methodist Church, 23 E. Adams, in Detroit at Grand Circus Park. The meeting will discuss building a fightback movement with demonstrations and militant actions to press for a moratorium on foreclosures and utility shut-offs, as well as educate people about their legal rights to challenge predatory loans.

The Detroit News article noted that the Detroit foreclosure rate, which was already at an all-time record in January 2006, has jumped six-fold since then. There are some Detroit neighborhoods where one in seven homes received a foreclosure notice between January 2006 and September 2007. One in ten Detroit homes has had a foreclosure notice in that time period.

More than one million homes in metro Detroit, which comes to two out of three households, are worth less today because their value has been damaged by nearby foreclosures. Over 10 percent of Detroit’s population is potentially facing imminent homelessness. Thousands face a winter with no heat, water or electricity.

Coupled with the economic devastation that has hit the people of Michigan, the foreclosure crisis in Detroit is a direct product of the racist, predatory lending practices of the banks and financial institutions. In Detroit, 85 percent of mortgages are “sub-prime,” meaning that they are at a much higher rate than the 6-percent rate for “prime” mortgages. Most of the mortgages are variable adjustable rate mortgages, meaning the payments double or triple after the first couple of years.

Seniors who had paid off their homes now find themselves with unaffordable monthly payments, as a result of being lured into unaffordable, illegal home-equity loans by brokers working on behalf of the financial institutions. Studies have documented that even among women, African Americans and [email protected] with good credit, sub-prime mortgages are the rule due to racist and sexist banking practices.

Three separate Michigan statutes—MCL 10.31 et.seq., 10.85 et.seq. and 30.401 et.seq.—mandate that the governor declare a state of emergency during periods of crisis, natural or “man-made,” and provide special powers to meet the crisis. MECAWI is demanding that Gov. Granholm utilize these emergency powers to impose an emergency moratorium to stop foreclosures and utility shut-offs.

During the 1930s, the state legislature utilized its emergency powers to pass the Mortgage Moratorium Act, Act No. 98, Pub. Acts 1933. The act extended the redemption period during which homeowners could not have their property taken from them after foreclosure, from six months to five years. The Michigan Moratorium Act was upheld by the Michigan and U.S. Supreme courts.

For more information on the fight for a moratorium on foreclosures and utility shut-offs, contact 313-319-0870 or visit www.mecawi.org.