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Margaret Groarke

Margaret Groarke lives in the Bronx, where she is an active member of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.

May 15th, 2010 10:35 AM

The Northwest Bronx Standing up at the Showdown on K Street

The crowd at Monday’s Showdown on K Street is going to include a hundred people from the Northwest Bronx. We’ll be there to stand up for our interest in a fair, accountable financial system that doesn’t put our homes, our jobs, and our personal finances at risk in the pursuit of ever-increasing profits.

We’ve become experts in housing finance here in the Bronx. We’ve got more people per square yard that could explain mortgages, the secondary market and such to you here than a lot of other places.

It’s because every so often, bankers, brokers and other financial whizzes fiddle with the financing of the homes we live in, and we feel the brunt of it. In the 80s, mortgage brokers took advantage of Freddie Mac’s willingness to buy loans – even some pretty overpriced ones – and lent landlords money they couldn’t pay back. In the apartment buildings we call home, that meant a decline in services, an increase in rents, pressures on old tenants to move, and eventually, the chaos of foreclosure. We had to fight hard to keep our buildings going, and to get Freddie Mac to establish more prudent policies.

Since Wall Street investment firms realized they could make a lot of money by securitizing mortgages, even if – or perhaps especially if – the underlying mortgages were lousy, we had a new wave of irresponsible mortgage lending here in the Bronx. University Neighborhood Housing Corporation finds that that’s led to a new wave of foreclosures in multi-family dwellings – 200 at least, since July 2008. And since those are apartments, not homes, those 200 foreclosures affect over 5100 families. Although only 20% of Bronxites own their homes, we’ve seen a worrisome increase in foreclosures over the past three years, with more than 5100 notices of foreclosure in the last three years.

The Federal Government’s bailed out the firms that created all the mortgage-backed securities that brought down the economy. This year, as usual, they all got large bonuses. Meanwhile, foreclosures continue. Homeowners are in danger of losing their homes. Tenants in overfinanced buildings are suffering deteriorating conditions and uncertain futures. The City’s budget is devastated by Wall Street’s problems, and so city services are being cut. The bailout has solved the problems of the big banks, but what about our problems?

And if that wasn’t enough, those same big banks are spending millions lobbying Congress to scuttle financial reforms that could help us avoid another disaster. Deregulation of the banks made the financial meltdown possible, and Congress must legislate sensible reforms to regulate banks, both to avoid inappropriately risky behavior, and to prevent abuse of consumers.

We’re coming to Washington to insist that the people’s interests be put first, and banks be held accountable.

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