(FinalCall.com) – Long cherished as the American Dream, home ownership has become a nightmare for many families, neighborhoods and local governments across the country.
A Demos report, “Beyond the Mortgage Meltdown,” released June 25, put foreclosures at close to 25,000 a week. More than two million homes are expected to be lost in 2008-2009 and many borrowers are “underwater,” with home mortgages larger than their actual homes are worth. Home values have fallen as far as 35 percent in some parts of the country.
The staple of wealth acquisition in the United States has been home ownership. The myth was that home values would steadily climb upward. The housing bubble has burst and the mess isn’t just impacting homeowners whose mortgages went belly up.
Living next to a vacant property automatically brings down nearby property values and local governments are literally spending millions to provide security for, board up and monitor abandoned properties. The problem is so bad the attorneys general for the states of Illinois and California are suing Countrywide Financial, a major lender, because failed mortgages have been destructive to the life and livelihood of residents of their states.
With Blacks having lost an estimated $71 to $92 billion in what some experts have called the largest single loss of wealth for Blacks in the history of the country, the lives of families and neighborhoods have been devastated because of an all-consuming greed.
The last time housing markets were hit with this kind of chaos, it was 1933 and President Franklin Roosevelt was entering the White House. In the midst of the Great Depression, Congress and the president acted to set up the Home Owners Loan Corp., which was a temporary measure that saved 800,000 families from foreclosure over three years and helped bring stability back to the housing market, the Demos report noted.
Congress is considering legislation that would help some homeowners but the country really needs more than legal efforts. It needs to examine itself and ask why inordinate greed pervades a country that enjoys a higher standard of living than the rest of the world and consumes far more than its share of the planet’s resources.
The god of America society is money and the lack of spiritual values and commitment to the development of human beings leaves the weak and the ignorant prey for wise and crooked deceivers. It was not enough for banks, major banks and lenders, to earn money based on someone taking out a loan and paying interest on that loan for 30 years.
As the country pushed forward with home ownership, at the urging of the Bush administration, the artful liars found new markets and new schemes. Regular pay-your-mortgage-loans over 30 years weren’t enough. Instead people were offered loans with very low interest rates for a couple years and promised that what they paid in rent could put them in a home. What they weren’t told was that getting in a home and staying in a home is not the same thing. Home ownership is not just a mortgage, its upkeep, taxes, insurance and other assorted costs. But the TV ads and radio commercials didn’t tell the whole truth and silver tongued salesmen didn’t offer the real deal either.
With subprime loans and other “exotic” loan products the profit wasn’t tied to having borrowers repaying loans, it was tied to getting the loan and reselling the loan to Wall Street investors. The deal was to charge people with bad credit higher interest rates and fees that would yield high profits. The mortgage brokers and loan officers often packed the loans with fees and took their cut off the top, then the loans were bundled and sold to investors. The gamble was a high enough number of bad credit people would pay enough to offset the failure of those who didn’t and the homes could be repossessed and sold as a last resort. Government regulators looked the other way during the free for all and told states to stay away from trying to tell the financial entities what to do–it’s called preemption where state law cannot trump federal law when it comes to regulation of interstate commerce.
Ever watchful for an opportunity to exploit someone, crooked businesspeople went after Black neighborhoods in a way that was called “reverse redlining.” While years ago banks literally drew red lines around Black communities to designate where they would not lend money, reverse redlining sought out Black homeowners who were equity-rich and cash poor. The most reliable target were the elderly who were told, “Just pull some money out for repairs. Don’t worry about that line; we’ll fill it in later. Well, the paper says that but it really doesn’t mean anything, I’ll take care of you.”
In a relatively short time, longtime homeowners often found themselves out of their homes and out of doors. In many instances, they received little of the money that they were entitled to because contracts signed with unscrupulous mortgage brokers often included fees and restrictions. Early payment penalties were so bad borrowers couldn’t refinance because the cost to get out of the loan was too great.
Americans forgot a bit of wisdom that has been handed down from generation to generation: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In other cases, loan forms were forged or altered after the borrower signed and committed to fixed interest rates and financial terms.
The lying, cheating and stealing perpetrated by respectable businessmen and women might be surprising if it weren’t for the history of the country. America was built on slavery, suffering and death and using the bodies of Blacks to carry the load. Blacks weren’t considered humans, they were simply commodities and when it came to profits in the housing industry, the people weren’t customers they were simply commodities to be exploited.
But what the deceivers didn’t count on was that their business scheme was built on miry clay and their greed would lead to the slowdown of the economy and have worldwide impact–given that Wall Street investors resold the loans to overseas investors–and bloodsucking that was targeted at Black neighborhoods is causing pain throughout the earth.