We Are Willing To Go To Any Means Necessary

On Wednesday I wrote a piece on Huffington Post and another at Open Left talking about the centrality of fixing the foreclosure crisis to any recovery from the economic meltdown. Since the toxic assets at the center of the meltdown are based on mortgages that are entering foreclosure at a rate of one every 13 seconds, we have to address foreclosure as a part of getting America back on its feet.

The Homeowner Affordability and Stabilization Plan (HASP), announced in Phoenix on Wednesday by President Obama, which will help up to an estimated 9 million families, is a good first step - and the first serious effort by the Federal government to confront the challenge. But just because there was an announcement does not lessen the urgency of the problem. We are still in a situation where four families every minute enter the foreclosure process. We believe there must be a moratorium on foreclosures until HASP is fully implemented.

So yesterday we at ACORN launched the Home Defenders campaign in seven cities - a campaign to force the question of moratoriums and to press the urgency of this crisis into the consciousness of elected officials on the state and national levels. This is a campaign of refusal and resistance, refusal by distressed homeowners to cooperate with the foreclosure process and resistance to attempts to evict them from their homes. And in some cases it is a campaign of getting people back into their homes.

I wanted to give everyone a report-back from our activities yesterday, which you can find in the extended entry.

In Baltimore, ACORN member Donna Hanks re-took her home. Foreclosed on last Fall, the house has stood empty since then, a stark reminder of the failure of the system. But Donna joined with 30 ACORN Home Defenders to liberate her home from the bank. Her act of civil disobedience was covered by 2 radio stations, 2 TV stations, the Baltimore Sun, and the Huffington Post.

Donna used bolt cutters to break the lock to the door and re-enter the home. Unfortunately, in the six short months since the home was seized, it has been extensively damaged, essentially partially gutted. The toilets are missing, and the upstairs ceiling is badly damaged. The greatest tragedy here is that Donna worked for months with ACORN sister organization ACORN Housing Corporation to try to get the bank to modify the loan so it could be affordable, but they refused, taking the home and now allowing it to be a haven for squatters and a target of looters.

In Houston, where one in three homes sold in January was a foreclosure and foreclosure sales accounted for 34 percent of all homes sold - a 9-percent jump from the same time last year, Sara Chavez announced her refusal to leave here home. "My mother and I don't leave," she said. A mother of three who cares for her sick mother, she has owned her house since 2004, but has seen her mortgage payment double from $1,000 to $2,000. She joined with ACORN Home Defenders to declare her neighborhoods a "Foreclosure Free Zone". And the  Home Defenders backed her up. ACORN member Pennie Saldivar said, "We want to fix this problem. We are willing to go to any means necessary".

We even had a little star power come out to help the campaign to keep hard working families in their homes. In Los Angeles, comedienne Roseanne Barr traveled to Watts to join with Tommy and Debora Beard. The Beards are a teacher assistant and hospital cook who have lived in their home for over 20 years and have lost it to foreclosure in part due to a predatory loan. There is a possibility that allies in the legal community may be able to extend the Beards' eviction process for quite awhile to buy time get Chase to reverse the foreclosure, person after person (including Roseanne) pledged to "go to jail" with the Beards if necessary.

There are other reports from Oakland, New York, and Orlando.

Conservatives have made much of the fact that they think this campaign is really all about helping greedy and undeserving homeowners get a taxpayer bailout. Or they are itchy about the fact that keeping people in homes might involve breaking things like trespassing laws. Or they just plain froth at the mouth because we at ACORN are again standing up for working families.

On the last point, we sure hope they are drinking plenty of liquids because we've been doing this for 38 years and we aren't going to stop just because it gives the people whose ideology led us into this catastrophe the vapors.

On the first two complaints, though, let me say two things. First, we all have skin in this game. This crisis is on a scale that rivals the Great Depression and foreclosures are at the heart of it. Whether you think the homeowners deserve it or not, creating a plan that gets these toxic mortgages performing again is the only way for people to agree on a value for the toxic assets clogging up the financial system.

Second, people are fed up seeing Wall Street get billions in help while the people bearing the brunt of the disaster get eviction notices. They are saying "enough is enough". Like Pennie Salvidar says, families are willing to go to any means necessary to get elected officials to do the right thing.

This is a unique moment in history, one where we can steer the country away from the failures of conservative ideology and toward a fundamentally progressive approach to governing. As Mike Lux put it in the Huffington Post today:"The American family has to take care of each other, has to look out for each other, especially in the hard times, because the misery of our fellow citizens will spread to the rest of us."

Right on.

This campaign is not just about helping hard working families keep their homes, it is fundamentally about saving the American Dream, about what makes us proud to call ourselves Americans, and about bit by bit making this country stronger.  

You can help by asking Congress not to give in to Wall Street and their coming attempts to block the most important aspects of HASP. If we want a new America we're going to have to fight for it

Tags: ACORN, ACORN Home Defenders, ACORN homesteaders, baltimore, Bertha Lewis, Bertha Lewis acorn, Houston, Los Angeles, main street, New York, Oakland, Orlando, President Obama, Roseanne Barr, Wall Street, Working Families (all tags)



Re: We Are Willing To Go To Any Means Necessary

The poorest in this country are not homeowners--they are renters.  How do these poor benefit from seeing increased government spending  on behalf of homeowners?

Indeed, the truly poor (renters) will suffer three ways from this spending.  First, they will pay directly for it through taxes, inflation, or less money for other social programs.  Second, this spending will artificially maintain the high cost of housing, thus making it difficult for them to ever buy houses themselves.  Third, this high cost of housing will also create price pressure on rental units, helping keep their rental costs high.

by markjay 2009-02-20 03:15PM | 0 recs
Re: As a Landlord

 I can assure you, I envy renters.

by QTG 2009-02-20 04:51PM | 0 recs
Re: As a Landlord

bet you didnt in 2005!

I think we ought to le house prices drop to 2000 levels -

this has been madness and I blame simple greed over common sense.

Housing has always gone up 5 % per year -

30-40% annual increases were not going to last vause they werent REAL!.

I cashed out in sept 05 and sold my small DC house that I had purchased in 1995 for 350 for 1.2 million.

Prices have a lot further to fall as yet.  Till we get this and accept it - we're gonna keep throwing good money after bad for no long term effect

I bought a great old boat at a great old price, moved on it and awaited the collapse.

by Zapata 2009-02-21 01:16PM | 0 recs
Re: As a Landlord

continuosly since the mid 1970's, I chucckle at the notion that invoking 2005 was intended to give you the gravitas of experience!


by QTG 2009-02-22 03:33PM | 0 recs
eh....that WAS the point....

by Zapata 2009-03-20 11:57AM | 0 recs
Re: We Are Willing To Go To Any Means Necessary

I never knew I was among the truly poor.  Setting that aside, I don't believe it's a zero-sum game, not when we're in a crisis situation where a whopping 25% of non-agency loans are delinquent in this country.

If we have foreclosures on a massive scale, maybe in some economic model that benefits renters because they finally get a chance to own a home at bargain-basement prices.  In the real world I believe that scenario is better described as a complete disaster for everyone.

by Steve M 2009-02-20 08:59PM | 0 recs
Re: We Are Willing To Go To Any Means Necessary

how else will we get homes to their real pre 2001 zero interest rate - speculator boom - price level?

prices are still way out of their historic levels.

1st timers buyers shouldn't have to subsidize previous owners retirement, greed or unrealistic price and value beliefs

by Zapata 2009-02-21 01:20PM | 0 recs
Re: We Are Willing To Go To Any Means Necessary

Well, the two ways to get there are a gradual decline and a sudden crash.  I'm in favor of the non-disastrous option.

by Steve M 2009-02-21 02:39PM | 0 recs
Why "shouldn't" they?

I'm quite seriously asking. Members of Code Pink (for example) saw their taxes used to subsidize the war they abhor. As a single young man I subsidized public schools for children I didn't have (yet). Renters subsidize tax breaks for homeowners, and so on.

Hell, the tax dollars of KKK members help enforce equal opportunity enforcement.

I'm seeing this "fair" argument a lot lately, and while it's intuitively appealing, I simply don't see a precedent for it. If each of us could earmark tax dollars to causes that personally benefited us, how would we continue to function as a nation?

by Neef 2009-02-21 07:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Why "shouldn't" they?

This plan is not at all equivalent to individual displeasure with how some of their tax dollars are spent.  This is a  major policy that, as the first poster pointed out, subsidizes certain people at the expense of others who live within their means while not correcting the problem it is designed to solve.  This plan will keep housing prices artificially high.  People who bought more house than they should have or paid prices they should not have took a risk.  Even if they could have afforded the house under their economic circumstances at the time they bought, they should have considered that the economy and their economic circumstances may change.  Did they keep enough money in reserve for this possibility?  If not, we should not be expected to bail them out.  (I feel the same way about the banks, who are significantly more at fault in my view.)  

by orestes 2009-02-22 07:34AM | 0 recs
"at the expense of others"

is the idea I take issue with. If this is not an issue of displeasure with tax allocations, the argument would be that we should not bail them out, period. As a policy dispute, it should be irrelevant who is paying for the bailouts, as it is irrelevant who is paying for the war.

I think you could make a reasonable case that the government should not "reward failure", and I think you are making that case. This is very different from a causal link which allocates a specific cost to homeowners who are at no risk of default. That issue of cost allocation, me paying for my neighbor, runs through all the examples I gave.

In my view, the argument that says "I should not pay for my neighbor" seeks to amplify a valid policy debate by bolstering it with populist anger. The idea that a defaulting neighbor is "reaching into" your pocket does indeed go directly to tax allocation practices, which are entirely separate from policy disputes.

by Neef 2009-02-22 09:22AM | 0 recs
Re: We Are Willing To Go To Any Means Necessary

What are "non-agency loans"?

by markjay 2009-02-21 08:01PM | 0 recs
Re: We Are Willing To Go To Any Means Necessary

Non-agency loans are the loans that don't qualify for backing by Fannie and Freddie... basically, the riskier category of loans.  Last number I saw is that 48% of all mortgages are non-agency loans right now.

by Steve M 2009-02-22 09:50AM | 0 recs


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