Atty. Vanessa Fluker at MECAWI meeting speaking on predatory lending at Central United Methodist Church on December 8, 2007. The meeting is part of a fightback campaign to declare a moratorium on foreclosures in Michigan. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe).
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Group to pressure city and state to declare emergency, moratorium
by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire
DETROIT, 8 December, 2007, (PANW)--A fightback campaign to declare a state of emergency in Michigan designed to halt forclosures and utility shut-off was launched on Saturday at
Central United Methodist Church located downtown.
Rev. Ed Rowe, Pastor of Central United Methodist Church, opened the meeting by saying that this is one of the most important issues people are facing in the state. "The only solution is a moratorium," Rowe declared.
The meeting was called by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI). The organization has been raising the demand for Governor Jennifer Granholm to declare an economic state of emergency in Michigan resulting from the massive unemployment, poverty, utility shut-off and epidemic foreclosures rates ravaging the state.
The city of Detroit has been the most severely affected with tens of thousands of homes and businesses being in some form of foreclosure in addition to many residents being subjected to living without electricity, heat and water services.
Atty. Jerome Goldberg made a presentation highlighting the history of the 1930s, when as a result of popular struggles during the period, a moratorium on foreclosures was declared.
"I am speaking to you not as a lawyer but as an activist," Goldberg said. "Let us be clear: we realize that a moratorium will only be won as a result of a struggle, not as a result of the laws which provide the Governor the powers to declare one."
Atty. Vanessa Fluker also addressed the audience on the impact of predatory lending in the Detroit metropolitan area. It appears that the city has been a target of the bankers and real estate firms who have forced mortgages on to tens of thousands of households which have and will lead to the loss of their homes. In the southeast Michigan region it is estimated that some 72,000 homes have been put in foreclosure over the last two years.
"There are red flags that people should look out for," Fluker said. She discussed the myraid of violations of the "truth in lending" laws where homeowners are given huge documents with obscure language that confuse and conceal the predatory designs of the mortgage lenders.
In the city of Detroit some 85% of mortgages are subprime. These mortgages have higher interest and adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs). These deals have disproportionately affected African-Americans, who as a result of racist lending practices, are automatically steered into subprime loans.
Saturday's meeting was attended by over 60 people from a wide variety of community and labor organizations. People attended from Detroit and Highland Park but also other communities such as Hamtramack and Warren.
Alfreda Weather of the Rainbow/Push Coalition addressed the meeting stating that her organization was holding a national demonstration on Wall Street on Monday, December 10 which will focus on subprime lending practices.
Wall Street banking institutions have been seriously affected by the current crisis in the subprime mortgage meltdown. Banks and financial institutions such as Citigroup, Merrill-Lynch, Countrywide and Quickenloans have loss billions of dollars as a result of the default in homeowner's loans in recent months. Central banks throughout Europe, where financial institutions there have purchased these largely fradulent loans, have injected billions of dollars in liquidity to prevent a collapse of dozens of investment and financial firms.
The meeting concluded with the signing of a letter to the Mayor of the city of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick demanding that he request the Governor to declare an economic emergency in Detroit and consequently halt the tens of thousands of evictions and utility shut-offs currently underway.
In addition, the meeting agreed to attend a City Council hearing called by Councilwoman JoAnn Watson on Tuesday, December 11 at 10:00am to discuss a moratorium on water shut-offs in Detroit. Councilwoman Watson, who was in attendance at Saturday's meeting, said that she was in full support of a moratorium on foreclosures, utility shut-offs and evictions and that the City Council had passed a resolution demanding that the Governor declare a state of emergency in Detroit.
Also on December 13, Attorney General Mike Cox will hold a conference at Cobo Center downtown which will invite mortgage lenders and the public to discuss methods to avoid foreclosure. MECAWI plans to leaflet and picket this meeting on December 13 feeling that Cox's efforts are not designed to seriously addressed the immediate crisis.
Most of the people in the city and state will not be eligible for relief under the current proposals being offered by the federal government and the bankers. The determination of who will be granted a freeze in rates and the opportunity to refinance will be made by the same institutions that are responsible for the crisis.
According to MECAWI spokespersons, the only real solution is the declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor and the implementation of a moratorium on foreclosures, utility shut-offs and evictions. If the Governor does not respond by providing immediate relief to the people of the state, MECAWI will call for a march on Lansing during the annual "state of the state address" in January of 2008.
MECAWI, which focuses on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other US interventions throughout the world, sees the current economic crisis in Detroit and throughout the country as manifestation of the multi-billion dollar defense budget which is robbing the people of resources to fund public works projects, health care, education, child and senior services as well as quality housing.
MECAWI is calling for another public meeting on January 5 at Central United Methodist Church. The Detroit City Council will hold a hearing on the housing crisis again on January 11.
For more information contact MECAWI through its web site at the following URL: http://www.mecawi.org