Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The New Depression: Michigan Campaign Unfolds to Win a Moratorium on Home Foreclosures

The new Depression

by News Hits staff

You know things are getting bad when legislators start drafting new bills modeled on laws originally enacted as a way to help people survive the Great Depression.

But that's the spot we're now finding ourselves in when it comes to the issue of home foreclosures. According to one published report, more than 41,000 Wayne County homes were involved in some aspect of the foreclosure process last year alone. Which is why the group Moratorium Now! (an offshoot of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice) is working with state Sen. Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit) to help pass SB 1306, which would place a two-year moratorium on home foreclosures.

If signed into law, the bill would allow homeowners faced with foreclosure to obtain a court-mandated stay that would allow them to keep their home for two years. It doesn't mean people could keep living in the houses for free; a judge would determine "reasonable" monthly payments based, in part, on the homeowner's income. That's according to attorney Jerry Goldberg, who is active in Moratorium Now!

"It is modeled on a law from the 1930s," says Goldberg about Clarke's bill, which has been sent to the Senate's Committee on Banking and Financial Institutions. The previous legislation — enacted in 25 states — provided Depression-era homeowners with a five-year cushion protecting them from eviction. Opponents fought it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled the law to be constitutional.

Basically, explains Goldberg, the court ruled that peoples' right to survive during times of economic crisis supersedes contractual agreements.

News Hits gets a cold chill imagining how a Supreme Court that has right-wingers like Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, Antonin Scalia and John Roberts might rule if such a case again makes it to the high court.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. First, the new law has to make it through the Legislature and past Gov. Jennifer Granholm's desk. Two upcoming events are intended to help make that happen. First is a march being held at 4 p.m. this Friday, June 6, in downtown Detroit. It will begin in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center and proceed up Woodward Avenue to Campus Martius.

The following week, on Saturday, June 14, there will be a town hall meeting in Detroit on the issue. It will be held 2-4 p.m. at UAW Local 7, 2600 Conner Ave. There will also be a legal clinic providing free advice to those facing foreclosure and eviction. To obtain more information about either event phone 313-964-5813 or go to the website

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or

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