(FinalCall.com) – When the Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke at the recent gathering of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, composed of Black-owned publications, he talked to the publishers about the largest loss of Black wealth in history due to foreclo sures and the loss of home values for Blacks.
The crisis, declared the Rev. Jack son, is far from over. The period of legal segregation or “humiliation apartheid” is over but the racist infrastructure of yesterday has not been dismantled and what was legally sanctioned deni al of rights and opportunity goes under the less threatening name of disparity today, he noted.
Disparity is a nice term that leads one to think a gap developed somehow and perhaps there is some academic or scientific way to resolve the problem. But so-called disparity, as Rev. Jack son observed, isn’t just happenstance, it stems from continued denial of equal access to capital and loans, education, health care, public safety and a continued targeting of Blacks by those who wish to benefit by exploiting our too-often exploited community.
From the time Blacks were kid napped and brought to this country, those who have controlled us have been happy to use us as tools and slaves to grow rich. While some tac tics may have changed the game and the tricks remain the same: When it comes to the literally billions of dollars Black homeowners have lost, it was targeting of Black neighborhoods by unscrupulous banks and brokers who intentionally went after equity rich but cash poor and often elderly Black ho meowners.
Consider the story of a 79-year-old widow whose only income was social security. After Louise Golden’s hus band suffered a stroke and their in come was drowning in medical costs, the couple decided in 2006 to reï¬ nance their long-time home, using the equity in the house to pay off bills. The elderly couple thought they were get ting a 30-year low ï¬xed-interest loan. Instead, with the death of her husband a year after the home reï¬nance, the widow learned the new loan terms were adjustable–meaning mortgage payments that were just over $1,000 a month increased to more than $1,700 a month and equaled more than what she had on her small income.
“Unfortunately, Mrs. Golden’s case is repeated throughout much of the nation and the problem is particularly severe in Maryland’s Prince George’s County where in 2009 the number of foreclosure ï¬lings, 13,412, accounted for 31 percent of similar ï¬ lings through out the state. According to the Mary land Department of Housing and Com munity Development, one out of every 24 homes in this county was subject to a foreclosure ï¬ling last year, com pared to the statewide rate of one out of 54,” noted the Center for Respon sible Lending, which recounted Mrs. Golden’s plight as part of a new report.
Prince Georges County is the most affluent, most educated Black county in America, and indicative of what Black and Latino neighborhoods na tionwide are suffering.
According to the center, “wide spread foreclosures have drained an estimated $350 bil lion from communities of color. These losses are attributable to both fore closed homes and nearby neighbors whose property values plummeted as a result of neighbors’ foreclosures. In many instances, homes near fore closures leave nearby homeowners owing a mortgage far more than their home is now worth.”
“According to Foreclosures by Race and Ethnicity: the Demographics of a Crisis, for every 100 African-American homeowners, 11 have either lost their homes or at imminent risk of foreclo sure. For Latino families, the figures are even worse–17 of every 100 La tino homeowners are affected by fore closures,” the center noted.
“The vast majority of homes lost to foreclosures were originated from 2005 through 2008 for owner-occupied borrowers, not speculators,” said the center, beating back a misconception often repeated to dismiss the housing crisis and industry wrongdoing.
The Center for Responsible Lend ing is trying to rally support for more legal protections at the fed eral level–“stronger regulatory over sight, sensible underwriting standards, and removing ï¬nancial incentives for lenders to steer consumers into high er-cost loans”–as congressmen try to hammer out new legislation by July.
Homeownership is the quickest path of wealth acquisition in this country, whether that wealth is used for edu cation, business development, invest ment or a resource when family mem bers who are less well off hit a ï¬nancial crisis. Blacks already lag behind when it comes to gaining wealth and the mortgage and home foreclosure crisis will increase the gap. Foreclosed and boarded up homes also mean more safety problems and stability issues for Black communities that were once strong and vibrant.
Most members of the Congressio nal Black Caucus are likely to side with stronger consumer protections, having seen their districts decimated by foreclosures, abandoned proper ties and with billions of lost tax rev enues on the horizon. But in addition to the stronger law, a more engaged and active Black community is need ed. The election of a Black president doesn’t solve all problems, defeat all enemies or absolve us of responsibil ity. The struggle for justice and the battle against exploitation are ongo ing and as the housing losses show, can be costly for everyone. A deterio rating neighborhood that looks like a ghost town is good for no one, and ig noring problems won’t make them go away. Black America is in a state of emergency and it’s time for everyone to get involved in an organization or effort focused on solving these seri ous problems.