Jackson joins fray over foreclosures

January 16, 2008|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,Sun reporter

A week after Baltimore filed a lawsuit alleging predatory lending in black neighborhoods, the Rev. Jesse Jackson met with the city's religious leaders yesterday to urge action to save homeowners from foreclosure.

Jackson encouraged the clergy to pressure banks to put a moratorium on foreclosures and to restructure loans so that homeowners can continue to meet payments and hold onto their homes. He said the effects of a massive number of foreclosures would ripple through the economy.

"Whole cities are sinking beneath this poison pill ... because government allowed the [lending] industry to operate without any form of transparency," Jackson said at a news conference at Bethel AME Church. "Cities around the country need to fight back."

To call attention to the crisis, Jackson is organizing a march Tuesday on the Washington headquarters of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Churches in Baltimore and other East Coast cities are expected to send buses of marchers.

Last week, Baltimore filed suit in U.S. District Court against Wells Fargo Bank, alleging the bank sold higher-interest subprime mortgages to blacks more frequently than to whites. The city seeks to recoup lost tax revenue and other costs associated with foreclosed homes.

"By forcing this change, we choose not to accept our families living with this kind of distress. We choose not to let the banking industry win on the backs of us," City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake said yesterday.

On Monday, the observed holiday of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, a rally will be held at 5 p.m. at Bethel AME Church to encourage social activism and plan the next day's march. The Rev. Frank Reid III, Bethel's pastor, said it's important to let people facing foreclosure know they are not alone and that help is available.

"Members [of the church] are really ashamed to admit that they are finding themselves in a position to lose their homes and therefore they wait until it's too late because of that shame," Reid said. "On top of that shame, you have the stress it's putting on families, on marriages. So the effect is a very drastic one."

Jackson asked about 40 assembled clergy to call on elected leaders to take action regarding the subprime mortgage crisis. He said the loss in tax revenue could affect public education, transportation and health services.

stephen.kiehl@baltsun.com

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