Disgusted with the government’s wimpy efforts to stop too-big-to-fail, bailed-out banks from rushing to take away families’ homes, weary of fighting case by case against huge corporations on behalf of the most vulnerable, activists across the spectrum are calling for a national, two-year moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.
They met Saturday, March 31, at a 9am-6pm conference, organized by the Moratorium NOW! coalition, on the second floor of the Central United Methodist Church on Adams at Woodward in downtown Detroit. Coalition members include People Before Banks, Occupy Detroit, labor unions, and community and church groups.
Their aim: to halt all foreclosures, and evictions of people whose homes are already in foreclosure, for two years. The ban could give millions of people a real opportunity to renegotiate their mortgage payments and/or reduce the principal mortgage debt when it’s more than a house is worth. It could help stabilize neighborhoods and property values across the nation.
Their means: sharing legal strategies from past confrontations with big banks and designing a campaign to demand and win the moratorium.
Such a moratorium wouldn’t be the first.
During the Great Depression in the 1930s, 25 states enacted moratoriums on foreclosures. The Michigan Moratorium Act gave an automatic, five-year stay for anyone facing foreclosure. Monthly mortgage payments were decided by a judge, based on a homeowner’s ability to pay.
The moratorium laws were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court under a decision that the people’s right to survive an economic emergency superseded contract law. Videos from the era shows why the states acted: because the people did. In New York, for example, workers and union members filled the streets — thousands of people — when banks tried to evict their neighbors.
The demand for a foreclosure moratorium is just as timely under the current economic devastation. According to some estimates, the federal government owns or backs 75% of all mortgage loans through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Through them, it is paying banks the full, inflated value of the homes lost to predatory loans and other taken in foreclosure.
The U.S. president has the authority to create a moratorium through an executive order. He also could immediately authorize a reduction of principal to actual market values on all homes owned by the federal government.
The Moratorium Now! Coalition has been challenging foreclosures and evictions in Michigan for the past five years while demanding a moratorium on them. Contact info: Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions & Utility Shutoffs, 5920 2nd Ave., Detroit, 48202. Phone: 313-680-5508. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: moratorium-mi.org.