Tag Archives: ACORN Home Savers Campaign

Housing is Healthcare!

Pearl River     At ACORN we like the slogan, “Housing is Health Care.”  We saw it or picked it up somewhere.  I wish I could remember, so I could give proper credit, but in the meantime, we’re touting this in many countries where we work, because it speaks a clear truth to power and people.

In that vein, an article caught my eye because I recognized two of the lead authors, Elnora Raymond from Georgia Tech and Dan Immergluck from Georgia State.  Our paths had crossed before and both had been very helpful in refining our understanding of predatory contract land purchases during our work with the ACORN Home Savers’ Campaign.  They were joined by a host of others in arguing for an emergency housing response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Georgia, but despite their specific state-based advocacy, many of their highlighted recommendations, if not all of them, could equally make a huge difference in states across the country in absence of a national policy.

Of course, they join all of us in demanding a moratorium on all evictions and foreclosures during the crisis, and, importantly, for sixty days past that time.  They also note a clear issue that has cropped up in many places where, despite state orders, some counties and parishes are still processing evictions.  Similarly, they point out that non-judicial foreclosures also need to be halted, which has been overlooked thus far in many places.  Let’s keep it simple.  You can’t obey a stay-at-home order if you don’t have a home!

In making their case they argue for funds to be allocated to small landlords to enable a “no eviction” policy, but they also call for penalties for landlords who initiate informal evictions, and a doubling down with the full weight of the state on landlords who do so in homes with small children, elderly over 60, or other particularly vulnerable tenants.

Utilities are essential for a healthy home, so a no shutoff policy is critical.  Water, gas, and electric are on the list, but we would add internet and cable, in order to allow home schooling and make stay-at-home orders actually work, particularly for parents working from home or essential and still on the job.

The Georgia team calls for “operational support” for section 8 facilities, homeless shelters, group homes, and other semi-institutional operations that are providing housing for the most susceptible.  They recognize that many of these outfits, especially nonprofits, are likely overwhelmed in the pandemic.  The ability to have additional support like deep cleaning, quarantine rooms, and other extraordinary and often expensive provisions are important insights.

Looking at the likely housing crisis after the pandemic subsides, they caution against triggering another 2007-2008 housing crash.  They grab the low hanging fruit arguing that banks and other mortgage holders not add penalties and put the skipped payments on the backend of the loans in a modification, but they also call for actual reduction of payments and modifications to the new market values.  We remember our failure to win this in the Great Recession, but agreed it’s worth taking another bite at this policy in the Pandemic Depression.

We’re with them on many other recommendations.  We need to dig down on these issues now, because once this fight against the virus is over, there is an even bigger and longer fight likely to come to win housing security as a vital part of permanent healthcare protection in order to achieve justice and equity for low-and-moderate income families.


Wall Street is Crippling the Single-Family Housing Market

New Orleans        The financial meltdown in the real estate market of 2007, marked by foreclosures triggered by speculation and broker scams and wiping out the citizen wealth of millions of families, continues to carry a legacy of community and family disasters.  Once again Wall Street and the unregulated, robber baron private equity industry is the face of more disaster in communities.  As part of the ACORN Home Savers Campaign, we joined experts from the Federal Reserve Bank and elsewhere last fall in Memphis at the Hooks Institute to present the evidence of their attempt to corner huge segments of the housing market in Memphis, leading to high eviction rates and disastrous and predatory market concentration.  All of which made reading “The Great Wall Street Housing Grab” by Francisco Mori, a very painful, déjà vu experience.

The backstory is well-known.  Private equity companies, led by Blackstone, took advantage of the glut of foreclosed properties among single-family homes in working class and moderate communities and suburbs to buy properties in bulk at fire sale prices.  Using subsidiaries, like Invitation Homes, which has made them billions as they sold out their interests, they consolidated market share making the homes into rentals units, attaching predatory fees and practices with low maintenance, and bleeding the neighborhoods.

Peter Kuhns, a former ACORN California organizer is quoted early in the report talking about the impact on the greater Los Angeles area where he has long worked, most recently as regional director for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), the California ACORN successor.

“Neighborhoods that were formerly ownership neighborhoods that were one of the few ways that working-class families and communities of color could build wealth and gain stability are being slowly, or not so slowly, turned into renter communities, and not renter communities owned by mom-and-pop landlords but by some of the biggest private-equity funds in the world.”

The stories in the article were horrific about the exploitation of tenants, including in some cases the former owners of the same homes who had been swept up in foreclosure during the crisis. Their efforts to bribe and induce activists to coverup their bad behavior was shocking.

More concerning is the predatory way they have concentrated in various markets and among minority areas.  Our colleague, Elora Raymond, at the Atlanta Federal Reserve found that “a third of all Colony American tenants in Georgia’s Fulton County received an eviction notice in 2015.  One of the strongest predictors was the concentration of African-Americans in their neighborhood.”  A Los Angeles research effort found that neighborhoods where 15% of the homes “are owned by large single-family-rental companies have an average black population of 30 percent.”  It’s not hard to follow this trail!

Another researcher from Cornell found that “Institutional investors own 11.3 percent of single-family rental homes in Charlotte, 9.6 percent in Tampa and 8.4 percent in Atlanta.”  Add Memphis to that list, and perhaps a city near you.  A California study found that “if single-family rental ownership in a neighborhood went up by 10 percent, property values went down by 4 to 7 percent.”

Meanwhile the private equity folks are securitizing these properties in large tranches.  What could go wrong?  Where have we seen this movie before?

We need to block the tracks and stop this train before it runs over our neighborhoods and cities.