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'A Dream Foreclosed': How Financial Predators Created a Crisis That Led to 10 Million Americans Being Evicted

As Obama touts our economic recovery, a new book by Laura Gottesdiener exposes the tragedy of our housing crisis.
 
 
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As President Obama heads to Phoenix today to tout the "housing recovery," journalist Laura Gottesdiener examines the devastating legacy of the foreclosure crisis and how much of the so-called recovery is a result of large private equity firms buying up hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes. More than 10 million people across the country have been evicted from their homes in the last six years. Her new book, "A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home," focuses on four families who have pushed back against foreclosures. "The banks exploited a larger historical trajectory of discrimination in lending and in housing that has existed since the beginning of this country. The banks intentionally went into communities that had been redlined, which meant that the Federal Housing Administration had made it a policy to not lend and not to guarantee any loans in minority neighborhoods all throughout most of the 20th century that didn’t supposedly end until well into the 1960s," Gottesdiener says. "And they exploited that historical reality and pushed the worst of the worst loans in these communities that everyone knew were unpayable debts — that Wall Street knew."

AMY GOODMAN: We are going to continue to look at this issue of foreclosures, as we turn now to a new book that documents those who are fighting back. Our guest is Laura Gottesdiener, author of A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home, which was just published by Zuccotti Park Press. The book follows how people have dealt with the housing crisis within the context of the broader financial collapse, focusing on the story of four families who have pushed back against foreclosures at a time when more than 10 million people across the country have been evicted from their homes in the last six years. Laura is also associate editor at Waging Nonviolence.

Laura, welcome to Democracy Now! It’s a really incredible book. Ten million people foreclosed on, the size of the state of Michigan.

LAURA GOTTESDIENER: Yeah, 10 million. Amy, thank you so much for having me; it’s really a pleasure. I mean, when I was starting to look at these numbers and I saw that we were talking about 10 million people, the number people who currently live in the state of Michigan, I was floored. And the reason I was floored is because we don’t hear that number—ever. And the reason that we don’t measure this crisis in terms of the actual number of people, of families who have been evicted, of missed school days, of destabilized dinners—of the way that human people have actually been affected—is because we don’t value families, we don’t value human life, as much as we value, you know, stock prices, speculation and monetary value of homes. And so, to me, the fact that nobody even knows that 10 million people have been evicted since 2007 betrays the larger, fundamental problem that allowed this crisis to happen in the first place.

AMY GOODMAN: As Clarence Lusane, who writes the foreword to your book, points out in the first sentence, that few recall that one week after Dr. King’s murder, on April 11, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Fair Housing Act, which outlaws discrimination in the sale, rental, financing of dwellings and in other housing-related transactions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability. There hasn’t been a Wall Street executive jailed for what has happened to the population, what, 10 million people?

LAURA GOTTESDIENER: Yeah, not a single one. And it’s interesting, because, yes, the Fair Housing Act was signed in 1968, and the Fair Lending Act in 1977, but that didn’t stop the banks from systematically and intentionally discriminating against people on the basis of race. The way that it happened has been incredibly well documented. One loan officer testified that they put—that Wells Fargo put bounties on the heads of minority borrowers by paying cash incentives to loan officers to push those aggressively in minority neighborhoods.

 
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