( – Equity rich but cash poor Black households hardest hit by the crippling subprime lending scheme have benefitted less than predatory financial institutions from stimulus dollars meant to help them recover, fair lending advocates and loan modification analysts say.

President Barack Obama created the Making Home Affordable Program as part of his $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The idea was to help about seven to nine million struggling homeowners keep their homes. Through the program these struggling homeowners can either refinance or modify their mortgages to lower terms.

Greg Akili, Field Organizer and National Training Director with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Los Angeles, said that’s easier said than done, because the bailed out banks are still holding people captive.


“A portion of the stimulus was to go to help people with foreclosures either with a tax credit or with the foreclosure, but the bulk of it went to save jobs. The money should have gone to direct payment to homeowners, just like they did with the banks. They should have subsidized people who were close to foreclosure or in foreclosure, so they could keep their homes right away,” Mr. Akili said.

According to Realty Trac, foreclosures, scheduled auctions, bank repossessions, and default notices were reported for more than 315,000 homes in January 2010 alone. But loan modifications and refinances by some of the big banks that were culpable in the subprime scandal accounted for a mere fraction of that.

“Supposedly the help is there but the problem is it’s in the pipeline, and the pipeline is a funnel, so the closer it gets to the bottom, the more it gets slower and slower,” Mr. Akili said.

According to ProPublica, an independent, non-profit news agency, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, CitiMortgage and Wells Fargo together account for more than 60 percent of the 3.4 million mortgages eligible for the Making Home Affordable program, yet they have only converted a small percentage for permanent modifications since the trials begun three or more months ago.

“It’s not like they have compulsory help, like these organizations are being forced to undo these bad loans and keep people in circumstances of reduced interest rates or curtailment of the loan amount. Participation by the banks is voluntary,” said Jeffrey May, Principal with International Development and Planning, a New Orleans-based minority-owned planning and consulting firm.

He said that like many of President Obama’s initiatives, the foreclosure prevention program may have been his idea, but he has no control over the development, crafting, or execution of it. Besides the pushing and pulling over implementation among Congress, he said, issues also arise in the agencies that oversee the programs.

Mr. May predicted that at some point, there will be mass evictions of people whose homes have been sold under them, and, the stimulus money designated to revitalize neighborhoods left desolated by foreclosed properties under the Neighborhood Stabilization Program will not benefit the communities because: the program requires a mechanism for a non-profit to acquire the properties in bulk, but that would reduce the profit margins of the private sector, which will drive a lot of the investments; buying in bulk would foster segregation; and local governments just aren’t set up to support affordable housing provisions.

“You have a lot of neighborhoods where people will say ‘yes we want affordable housing,’ but the moment you build a unit or start the plans to build a unit you see the communities come out in arms about these projects…so the NIMBY (not in my back yard) syndrome is going to take over,” Mr. May said.

Sharon Black, co-coordinator of the National Network to Stop Foreclosures & Evictions, said the number of clients her organization has helped since the foreclosure crisis hit has tripled. She is bothered that the federal government lacks incentives for big banks to reverse their bad practices. For instance, she argued, if banks foreclose on homes, Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac bail them out and take the loss for the full amounts.

“It’s a form of theft, like $1.9 trillion, that has been stolen from devaluing people’s property, particularly in the African American community, which relied on their homes as wealth. There’s gotta be a change in mindset. That’s the people’s money. That money should belong to the people,” Ms. Black said.