The foreclosure crisis has had a negative impact on the people of the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., the epicenter of a rebellion for justice springing from the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, at the hands of cop Darren Wilson on Aug. 9.
Though small in size — approximately 21,000 residents — compared to Detroit, the city of Ferguson is a microcosm of the deliberately racist, bank-led subprime lending crisis that led to mass foreclosures in both cities.
Detroit has been called the “ground zero” of the bank-driven home mortgage and subsequent foreclosure and eviction crises. Some 250,000 people, or fully one-quarter of the city’s population, left the city in the last decade, according to the 2010 census. Most had their home mortgages foreclosed and were driven out by the banks, their homes repossessed and sold at sheriffs’ sales, their belongings put in dumpsters, the occupants evicted. This resulted in tens of thousands of abandoned, vandalized homes throughout the city.
Ferguson and Detroit are both cities with majority African-American populations. Ferguson is two-thirds Black, while Detroit is 82.7 percent African American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2013, Detroit’s population had plummeted to 689,000. Spread out over 139 square miles, Detroit is much larger than Ferguson, which covers just 6.2 square miles. Both cities have high poverty rates, which are part and parcel of institutionalized racism.
Over the past seven years, Workers World has continuously covered the Detroit struggle against the banks and for a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. See “How the banks destroyed Detroit” at http://tinyurl.com/lxbwt85 or do a search at workers.org to find dozens of articles about the mass assault on Detroiters and the fightback carried out by the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs.
In Ferguson, a housing assault by the banks against the people also took place. Half of the 6,321 homeowners in Ferguson now own property that is “under water.” This phenomenon, widespread in Detroit, means that people owe more on their mortgages than their homes can be sold for. (“Another Shadow in Ferguson as Outside Firms Buy and Rent Out Distressed Homes,” by Matthew Goldstein, dealbook.nytimes.com, Sept. 3)
These bloated mortgages with reduced property values are a direct result of the deliberate subprime mortgage crisis that caused the financial collapse of 2008 and continues to devastate oppressed communities throughout the U.S.
In Ferguson, like Detroit, “investment” corporations seeking profit-making “opportunities” are buying up foreclosed homes and renting them out to low-income residents, often without fixing up or maintaining the structures. About 25 percent of homes purchased in Ferguson have been gobbled up by these investment firms. A situation of absentee landlordism has arisen and spread throughout the community, with resultant uncertainty about the landlords’ intentions to tend to the homes, which are mostly older and in the poorer sections of the city.
While Ferguson is under police occupation, the people of Detroit are under political occupation by an unelected “emergency manager” who has placed the city in bankruptcy, thrown out union contracts and is seeking court approval to implement a vicious austerity plan against the city’s retirees, workers and residents.
The loss of homes to the banks, absentee landlordism, blight, rundown housing, homelessness, police brutality and killings, racism, occupation and fightback unite the residents of Detroit and Ferguson in struggle and solidarity.