English for Congress Position Paper (April 2014)

Foreclosures, Evictions, and Homelessness

Various estimates of the number of homes that have been foreclosed, are currently in foreclosure, or remain at risk of foreclosure range from four to ten million, with a million or more annually.  Many of these foreclosures were the result of fraudulent mortgage processing and lending disclosure practices by predatory institutions that violated all norms of ethical behavior and responsible business practices.  Other foreclosures were the result of deliberate lending to unqualified buyers with the full knowledge that the buyers would unable to repay the loans and related costs of home ownership. Other foreclosures resulted from the economic catastrophe following the 2008 financial meltdown that destroyed about eight million jobs.  Decent hardworking persons were unable to continue making their loan payments and were evicted or are currently facing eviction. Some of these unfortunates became homeless when they had no other housing alternatives after their evictions and began to congregate in makeshift camps in cities and their nearby vicinities.  With no end to their continuing occupation of city lands, city councils are now enacting ordinances forbidding camping anywhere within city limits, not just their business or commercial districts. The homeless are fined, given bus tickets out of town, or merely driven out of town.  Mesquite, Nevada, drove their homeless residents out of town after bulldozing their encampment along the Virgin River at the edge of town. 

In one respect, the city ordinances that forbade camping by the homeless are very understandable despite being extremely odious.  Any city or state that welcomes the homeless would be overwhelmed by homeless migrants from other areas not so compassionate.  Federal care of the estimated 650,000 to 3.5 million homeless persons is absolutely essential because no one city or state can cope with the magnitude of the problem, which is directly the consequence of irresponsible and criminal behavior by major financial institutions and the incompetence of their Federal government overseers.

All attempts should be made to keep families at risk of eviction in their homes if they are the victims of fraud or the economic catastrophe.  For repossessed homes held by the VA or FHA, the Federal government must allow their occupants to remain indefinitely in their homes and make payments based upon 30% of their reduced incomes with a lien against the proceeds of the future sale of their home.  In the meantime, interest at the current cost of Federal borrowing, property taxes, and insurance would be added to the unpaid balance of the principal owed at the time of default. In the event that the borrower is unable to repay or qualify for refinancing the balance due when the house is voluntarily vacated, the foreclosure process will proceed for its orderly disposition at that time.

Furthermore, for those persons without homes or any place to go for shelter, military bases and reservations should be opened for them to occupy any vacant buildings or camp in recreational or other areas with outdoor sanitary facilities if no buildings are available. Sanitary facilities such as portable toilets and water should be provided in the event none are available in camping areas allocated to the homeless.  Local charitable organizations should be invited to assist the homeless and the base should provide food and medical services that are otherwise not available from local support groups.  Unused or closed military bases should be reopened wherever there is a need for shelter, food, and medical services that are not available or being provided to the homeless. FEMA trailers should be placed on these active and unused reservations and bases and connected to the bases’ utility systems for semi-permanent housing for the homeless until decent and suitable long term provision for their survival needs could be arranged at other locations.  The Army was capable of providing fully functioning work camps for the 250,000 young men entering the CCC programs during the three months after President Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated for his first term on March 20, 1933.  If the military can be used to provide emergency aid to other nations after catastrophes such as the Haitian earthquake, it certainly must be used now to assist our citizens in distress.  There is no excuse for not doing so. Even our imprisoned criminals are treated much better than the innocent homeless who have done no wrong! 

According to Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine, "Robosigning is a mass-perjury issue, a tax evasion issue, a contractual fraud issue, and a criminal conspiracy issue (the banks' highest executives were engaged in planning it) and it resulted in millions of errors that resulted in untold numbers of premature foreclosures". While some civil judgments have been obtained for monetary losses resulting from fraudulent activity, criminal prosecutions have not been initiated again the perpetrators of the financial crimes.  Only the future will reveal whether full justice for the millions of victims of mortgage fraud will ever be attained.

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