UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, disappointed and angered by the withdrawal of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from a Detroit hearing on foreclosures, will proceed with plans to co-host the May 20 event. “This was our chance for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to listen and learn about how destructive their policy of foreclosure and eviction is for metro Detroit,” says Estrada, who anticipates spirited testimony at the People’s Hearing. “They need to see and hear the evidence that their policies are hurting working families and undermining neighborhoods.”
Following two months of discussion and planning, the federal agencies have withdrawn from the hearing at the direction of legal counsel, claiming– at the 11th hour– that it would be “awkward” for officials to hear testimony from homeowners who are in litigation fighting eviction by Fannie or Freddie.
Throughout the planning process, organizers of the event provided full disclosure of the anticipated agenda and details of the public hearing. Officials from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the failing mortgage investors taken over by the federal government in 2008, agreed in March to come to Detroit and hear testimony from homeowners, union members, and community leaders about the foreclosure crisis. Fannie and Freddie, which own or insure more than half of all residential mortgages in the country, have foreclosed on more than 15,000 families in Wayne County since the government takeover by the Federal Housing and Finance Agency (FHFA). Thousands more have lost their homes in Oakland and Macomb.
Fannie and Freddie have declared a moratorium on foreclosures in areas stricken by Hurricane Sandy. Estrada and organizers from Detroit Eviction Defense argue that they should do the same for Metro Detroit, flattened by banking fraud, mass unemployment, and the resulting storm surge of foreclosures. They are also calling on Fannie and Freddie to reverse their current policy of refusing to lower the principal on “underwater” loans where the balance owed is higher than the plummeting market value of the home.
Testimony at the May 20 hearing will be videoed, and organizers vow to hand-deliver the recording to federal officials. “The UAW sees the fight to halt foreclosures as part of its historic commitment to social justice for all working families,” said Estrada. FHFA officials have committed to scheduling a discussion with UAW representatives, community leaders, and public officials as soon as possible to review policy alternatives specific to the Detroit area.
A new report, “A Hurricane Without Water: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Foreclosure Crisis in Metro Detroit,” will be available at the hearing and at http://www.detroitevictiondefense.com/