July 22, 2011

Community-driven Solutions to a Community-wide Foreclosure Crisis

July 22, 2011

Back in May I made a plea: help bring attention to the still-festering housing crisis in Prince George’s County, Md. Through my empirical work with the Coalition for Homeownership Preservation in Prince George's County – the Coalition, for short - it became clear that few people knew and few reporters cared enough to report that droves of middle- class homeowners are losing their homes to foreclosure in this wealthy, majority-black county.

Yesterday, two investigative reporters from American University took up the cause. They describe Prince George’s as a prime example of the many majority-minority counties devastated by the subprime lending crisis and utterly let down by “mediation policies” that lenders see as mere formalities on the way to foreclosure.

None of this comes as news to the Coalition, which has long argued that big corporate lenders display little interest in alleviating the crisis. In fact, the Coalition bases most of its work on the idea that concerned and motivated individuals from the community must take action. And taking action they are.

At its monthly meetings, the Coalition gathers respected mortgage counselors, representatives from local, state and national elected officials’ offices, community activists, and researchers to develop and carry out a comprehensive plan for combating the high rates of foreclosure. Between meetings, it hosts workshops to educate homeowners on predatory lending and scamming, and brings together mortgage counselors and the homeowners who most need counsel. Its growing network includes the faith community, local political officials, and neighbors.

With wind in its sails from these successes, the Coalition has big plans-- formalizing emergency support systems for homeowners in need, getting counseling and mediation services to homeowners before foreclosure proceedings start, and investing in local long-term employment and housing prospects.

This model – leadership and service from members of troubled communities – is the one that will face down the enduring crisis.

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