Fight Back! Editorial, February 2009
In January, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will stop evicting tenants in foreclosed homes. Instead tenants will be able to stay on as renters. Both Fannie and Freddie were taken over by the government last year and have changed some policies to help slow the tidal wave of foreclosures and evictions. By allowing tenants to stay on, the blight of abandoned foreclosed homes will be lessened, and families who rent will not be uprooted from their schools and communities.
But Fannie and Freddie only have about one-fifth of late mortgages. The other 80% are in the hands of big banks and investors. We need state governments and congress to act!
- State legislatures should pass an immediate ban on foreclosure evictions for both owner occupied homes and tenants. This ban should last until Congress changes the law to protect tenants and owners who live in their homes.
- State legislatures and Congress must pass a law banning evictions of tenants when their landlords go into foreclosure. Tenants should be allowed to stay under their previous contract (whether by lease or month-to-month).
- Congress must change the bankruptcy law to allow residents to modify their mortgages. Bankruptcy judges should be empowered to reduce the principal amount of loans for owner-occupied homes to 80% of the home’s current market value and require the lender to offer a 30-year, fixed interest rate loan.
- Congress must also change the law to allow a ‘right-to-rent for homebuyers who can’t pay their mortgages and don’t want to go through bankruptcy. This would allow the homebuyer to stay in their home and pay the market rent. It would also be an incentive for lenders to modify the mortgage.
Of course the big banks and wealthy investors will argue that this will be bad for them, which will mean that they will lend less, which will hurt homebuyers. But they are the ones who helped to cause the crisis with their fraudulent lending! They should pay! And they are not lending anyway! The banks are sitting on $800 billion in cash, despite getting hundreds of billions from the Bush bank bailout!
But the people should not just pressure their legislatures and congress. When African Americans were denied their rights under Jim Crow segregation laws, they used civil disobedience and direct action to desegregate businesses and public facilities. Working people need to confront unjust and unfair evictions where ever and whenever they can. The evildoers need to be exposed and their agents in the government need to be protested.