February 19, 2009

Cleveland Plain Dealer’s ‘Housing Experts’: Two Community Organizers and a Govt. Official

ClevelandBoardedHouse0209.jpgSo where did the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Sabrina Eaton go for opinions on what Michelle Malkin earlier today called “the massive mortgage entitlement campaign launched by President Obama”?

Why, they went to “housing experts,” of course.

But the people she quoted aren’t builders, realtors, mortgage lenders, mortgage brokers, or economists. Nor, based on the area’s results, are they experts in helping individuals and families make smart housing decisions, or in helping communities build property values.

No-no-no. The people Eaton consulted as “housing experts” were an “organizing project executive director,” the head of the “Columbus-based Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio,” and a county treasurer. Not surprisingly, these alleged “experts” liked Obama’s plan, but conditioned their praise with the requisite “there should be more” caveats  — both in terms of money and coercion.

Here is some of Eaton’s Wednesday report (bolds are mine, and reinforce points above):

President Barack Obama’s plan to reduce mortgage foreclosures and help some homewners obtain lower payments through refinancing was greeted enthusiastically by Ohio housing experts who said it would ease local foreclosure problems.

While they applauded financial incentives to encourage lenders to refinance loans and reduce homeowners’ monthly payments, they felt the plan relies too much on lenders’ voluntary cooperation, and doesn’t do enough to aid homeowners with loans that exceed the value of their property.

“Frankly, this is more than I thought we’d get,” said East Side Organizing Project executive director Mark Seifert.

….. “I don’t think the four-page summary I’ve seen will fix the foreclosure crisis because the devil is in the details, but on its face it looks very good,” said Seifert, whose non-profit group helps Cleveland-area homeowners fight foreclosures.

Bill Faith, who heads the Columbus-based Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio observed that 420,000 Ohio homeowners have loans that exceed the value of their homes, and said more should be done to encourage lenders and servicers to “write off part of the principal that’s owed to keep people in their homes.” He said the bill doesn’t contain bankruptcy reform measures that would let judges stave off foreclosures by modifying loans.

“This is probably the best federal response to the foreclosure crisis to date, but it still will only have impact for some homeowners,” said Faith. “There are many homeowners who will not be assisted by this effort.”

Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis likes the initiative’s provision that would aid homeowners who are still current in their loan payments, but will face problems when their interest rates rise.

“This will help, but as we all know, this program comes too late for Cuyahoga County,” Rokakis said. “Witness the 100,000 people who have left the county in the past nine years.”

With all due respect to Mr. Rokakis, the reasons behind why 100,000 people have left Cuyahoga County this decade represent a culmination of what has plagued the county, and especially the City of Cleveland, since the 1960s: crime, high taxes, and lousy schools. Though there have surely been problems with subprime mortgage lending –  both with those who lent the money and those who ignorantly took ill-advised deals — people have been voting with their feet and leaving the area for the ex-urbs or other states for a long, long time.

Cleveland may be the “perfect” case study demonstrating the perverse results of the Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-driven mandate to increase home ownership among the poor and minorities, ultimately traceable to the Community Reinvestment Act of the 1970s. To get to “desirable” ownership percentages in an already poor city and metro area, banks did deals they shouldn’t have done, lending money to people who couldn’t be relied upon to repay the amounts they borrowed. The predictable result has been one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation.

Yet somehow, according to the “community organizers” of the world, this is the fault of greedy lenders and the free market. Give me a break.

Sabrina Eaton is based in Washington. That ideally positions her to do an investigative report called “How Uncle Sam and His Government-Sponsored Enterprises Clobbered Cleveland and Cuyahoga County with Good Intentions.” It would be very revealing reading. Instead the Plain Dealer gave precious space to the same “it’s never enough” blather from people who more than likely couldn’t run the companies they so fiercely criticize if their lives depended on it.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


1 Comment

  1. Another example of why the newspaper industry is thriving.

    Comment by Ben Keeler — February 19, 2009 @ 7:11 pm

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