Sunday, April 17, 2011

Detroit coalition steps up foreclosure fight

By Kris Hamel
Published Apr 17, 2011 11:08 AM

The ongoing struggle for a moratorium to halt mass foreclosures is gaining new steam in Detroit and Wayne County, Mich. On April 6 scores of labor, faith and community activists filled the sanctuary at Greater St. Matthew’s Baptist Church in Highland Park, Mich., for a press conference held by the People Before Banks Coalition to announce the introduction of the “Homeowner Protection and Neighborhood Preservation Act” before the Wayne County Commission on April 7.

Commissioner Martha G. Scott of Highland Park, a former state senator who introduced the act, opened the press conference, followed by coalition organizers and leaders, including the Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellerman; Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers international union; Dave Ivers on behalf of Metro Detroit AFL-CIO President Saundra Williams; Pastor D. Alexander Bullock, president of Rainbow PUSH Detroit and senior pastor of Greater St. Matthew’s; and Jerry Goldberg and Vanessa Fluker, anti-foreclosure attorneys and leaders in the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions & Utility Shutoffs.

The act “[seeks] to protect homeowners, preserve our neighborhoods, and insure the proper documentation and payment of county fees for mortgage assignments” by A) calling for “an independent audit of foreclosure sales to determine the extent to which the county and its citizens have been victimized and economically harmed by the fraudulent practices of banks and mortgage servicers; B) urg[ing] the Sheriff to implement a moratorium on foreclosure sales of occupied residential housing for one year; and C) plac[ing] the issue of implementing such a moratorium on the Nov. 8, 2011, ballot as an advisory question.”

“The sheriff should not be supporting those who break the law,” declared King. “The banks got a $700 billion bailout and now they refuse to help homeowners. We have to look at this in the broader context of the out-and-out attacks on working people. We have to fight for fairness and justice.”

A coalition release noted that “more than 100,000 Michigan homes were foreclosed in 2010, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. Wayne County alone accounted for one-quarter of that total and more than 400 foreclosure auctions a week, according to RealtyTrac.”

“Not only did the banks get the big bailouts everyone’s heard of, but the banks are still getting bailed out — they get paid the full mortgage value by the federal government when they foreclose on homeowners and their families,” said Fluker. “The banks won’t stop foreclosures because foreclosures are too lucrative for them. We have to stop them.”

Time to ‘hold banks accountable’

The proposed bill states, “The process of mortgage origination, securitization, rating, and foreclosure has been characterized by allegations of massive fraud, from the predatory lending practices of sub-prime mortgage companies, to the deceptive practices of Wall Street underwriters, to the misrepresentation of security valuations by ratings agencies, to the improper recording of mortgage assignments and evasion of county fees, to the counterfeiting of mortgage documents and robo-signing of affidavits at foreclosure.”

Person after person stood up at the April 7 County Commission meeting during the public comments section to voice their support for Scott’s proposal. These included the head of the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood association on Detroit’s east side. Goldberg urged the commission to put the moratorium on the November ballot and told how the U.S. Supreme Court upheld foreclosure moratoriums in Michigan and other states during the Great Depression. Nancy Brigham supported Scott’s measure and a moratorium. “My home on the east side is one of those that was saved in the 1930s,” she said.

Steve Babson also supported the moratorium and said foreclosures were similar to the attacks of “elimination of the earned income tax credit, taxing our pensions, cuts in unemployment benefits and cuts to public workers” currently on the legislative agenda in Michigan.

“After next Thursday I’ll be homeless,” said an African-American woman who retired two years ago from Ford Motor Company after more than 30 years on the job. She said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development refused to help her keep her home of 24 years. “It is too late for me now, but I ask the Commission to support those coming after me and all the people who are in my shoes.”

Fluker arrived late and explained to the Commission and the audience: “I just got done in 36th District Court, because the bank sold my client’s house for one dollar. The arrogance of these banks who refuse to deal with people and then throw them out of their homes for one dollar! This illegal and unscrupulous conduct of the banks is destroying our communities and the economic base of our county. It is imperative to act quickly and hold the banks accountable.”

Wayne County Commissioners Bernard Parker, Tim Killeen and Alisha R. Bell voiced their support for Scott’s proposal.

For more information on the Homeowner Protection and Neighborhood Preservation Act and to get involved in this struggle, visit or the “People Before Banks Coalition” page on Facebook.

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