Special to Workers World Detroit
One hundred fifty people attended an evening hearing on June 13 of the Wayne County Commission Ways and Means Committee to express their support for the Homeowner Protection and Neighborhood Preservation Act introduced by Commissioner Martha G. Scott at the initiative of the People Before Banks Coalition.
The act calls on the county to conduct an investigation of the impact of mortgage fraud and racist predatory lending in Michigan’s Wayne County, which includes the city of Detroit. It urges the sheriff to place a one-year moratorium on foreclosure sales in Wayne County, and to put the issue of the sheriff placing such a moratorium on the November ballot.
At the hearing, powerful testimony was given by homeowners who have lost their homes in foreclosure and neighborhood residents who told of the massive blight and loss of property values due to the foreclosure epidemic.
Auto Workers Civil Rights chair Miguel Foster read a statement on behalf of the union in support of the act. The Rev. David Bullock, chair of Operation PUSH, and the Rev. Ed Rowe, pastor of Central United Methodist Church, spoke out forcefully in support of a foreclosure moratorium, as did progressive attorneys from Michigan Legal Services, the United Community Housing Coalition and the Legal Aid and Defenders Office who fight every day in court on behalf of those losing their homes.
The powerful testimony forced every Wayne County Commissioner who attended the hearing to publicly express their support for the act, a turnaround from the wavering that had been previously noted. While the act would not be binding on the sheriff, Commissioner Bernard Parker noted that if the sheriff refused to implement the foreclosure moratorium the commission could exert pressure through its control of his budget.
At a meeting with coalition activists later that week Sheriff Benny Napoleon pledged his neutrality on the commission vote and the public referendum on the foreclosure moratorium to give an opportunity for the people to be heard on this critical issue. Coalition activists explained to the sheriff that the resolution and referendum would gather national attention, and would put him in a strong position to resist any attempts by the banks and financial institutions to derail the foreclosure moratorium after it was implemented.
Wayne County has been one the hardest-hit counties by the foreclosure epidemic. More than 69,000 homes in the Detroit area received delinquency or foreclosure notices in 2009 (foreclosuredeals.com Feb. 9, 2010) and metropolitan Detroit recorded 43,541 foreclosures in 2010, the third highest number of any metropolitan area in the U.S. (Detroit News, Jan. 27) The foreclosures are continuing unabated, with Realtytrac reporting over 2,700 foreclosure filings in Wayne County in April.
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