As the Occupy movement enters its third month, it is moving into a new phase. Colder weather in the north, combined with aggressive push back from city officials around the country, is requiring the movement to adopt new, innovative approaches that include, but transcend, public presence as protest.
Pundits are wondering aloud whether Occupy is through. But this young movement is just getting started. An exciting piece of evidence to that effect is a new focus on foreclosures.
Alongside its call for job creation, corporate accountability, and relief from crushing student loan debt is a growing demand that Wall Street and Washington make right the disaster for homeowners that their greed and neglect respectively caused. The movement has deemed December 6th a National Day of Action to Stop and Reverse Foreclosures.
The new “OccupyOurHomes.org” website describes the stakes and the problem well:
“Everyone deserves to have a roof over their head and a place to call home. Millions of Americans have worked hard for years for the opportunity to own their home; for others, it remains a distant goal. For all of us, having a decent place to live for ourselves and our families is the most fundamental part of the American dream, a source of security and pride.
In 2008, we discovered bankers and speculators had been gambling with our most valuable asset, our homes—betting against us and destroying trillions of dollars of our wealth. Now, because of the foreclosure crisis Wall Street banks created with their lies and greed, millions of Americans have lost their homes, and one in four homeowners are currently underwater on their mortgage.”
These Americans are joining many others, particularly in communities of color, who were victimized by predatory lending and lax enforcement for decades. A new report by the Center for Responsible Lending, for example, shows that African Americans and Latinos were consistently more likely than whites to receive high-risk loans. While an unacceptable 12 percent of White Americans have lost their homes to foreclosure or are delinquent, a staggering one-quarter of Latinos and African-Americans are in the same position.
Fortunately, there are a range of solutions that can save homes, restore communities, and rebuild the American Dream of fair and sustainable home ownership. They range from mandatory mediation of foreclosure proceedings, to pre- and post-purchase counseling, to principal reduction and bankruptcy reform. Also important are approaches like own-to-rent programs, community land trusts, and improved fair housing enforcement. And when Congress again takes up the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it will be crucial to maintain a government role that keeps home ownership accessible and sustainable for working Americans.
The Occupy movement and its allies have been criticized, unfairly in my view, for failing to articulate solutions. As their attention turns to addressing foreclosures, it is clear what they are working for.