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Save the American Dream: Stop Mortgage & Foreclosure Fraud in Maryland

CLINTON, Md., Feb. 11, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement by Rev. Delman Coates, Ph.D., Senior Pastor at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, Clinton, MD:

As a local pastor in a region struggling with high foreclosure rates, one of the toughest things I do is counsel members of my church and community who are losing their homes. Homeownership is a cornerstone of the American dream, and for middle class families, their house is the biggest asset they will ever have. It provides economic security for working families, stabilizes our neighborhoods, and enables people to earn equity in an investment that can be passed down to their children and grandchildren.  

The most difficult days of the initial collapse of the real estate market in America and the global financial crisis may have lapsed, but until we do more to protect homeowners with distressed mortgages who are at risk of losing their homes, too many families will continue losing their piece of the American dream.   

Homeowners at risk need more voices fighting to protect their interests. Regrettably, one of the biggest obstacles they face is the persistent myth that foreclosures are primarily the result of deadbeat homeowners who purchased homes they could not afford. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since the late 1990s, banks have been designing ways to securitize mortgages into risky financial instruments, and that combined with the way in which the banks assigned notes and avoided recordation of deeds put vulnerable home buyers at immense personal financial risk.  At the same time, federal and state governments failed to properly protect homeowners and enforce laws regarding fraud and predatory lending.  The end result: millions of Americans lost their homes and home equity over the past 6 years, even though the same banks that created the global financial crisis were saved by the federal government and tripled in size. If the banks are too big to fail, then the American family should be too big to fail as well.

I fear the passing of the global financial crisis and the slow but steady improvement in our economy will paper over the foreclosure crisis that still exists in many of our communities. Here in Maryland, which has one of the highest rates of foreclosures in the country, too many of our elected officials and judges lack the urgency needed to protect the public from predatory lending, mortgage fraud, and foreclosure fraud.  The national mortgage servicing settlement with the banks has been held up as a victory for distressed homeowners, but many advocates see it as a smokescreen giving the impression that states are holding the culprits of mortgage and foreclosure crime accountable.  This slap on the wrist fails to give underwater and illegally foreclosed upon homeowners the restitution they deserve.  False documents are still being submitted in foreclosure hearings. Fraudulent documents are still being filed in land records. State and local recordation laws are still being violated. Banks are still violating terms and conditions of the mortgage settlement by engaging in dual-tracking. Foreclosing entities are still not adequately proving they have standing to enforce mortgage notes.    

Those of us on the ground, in the faith and advocacy communities, are asking for leadership.  The toxic mortgages, the securities fraud, and the questionable legality of foreclosures in Maryland are undermining the faith and credit of property ownership in our state.  But few seem willing to act - not the O'Malley/Brown administration, not the Attorney General's office, not the state judiciary. Legislative solutions are a must.  Greater scrutiny of decisions in foreclosure courts is imperative.  A procedural review of past foreclosures seems appropriate.  Existing laws concerning mortgage and foreclosure fraud need to be more strongly enforced.  Otherwise, the American dream of homeownership will continue to be put at risk for thousands more homeowners Maryland.  As a community, we must educate ourselves, organize ourselves, and elect politicians who will serve the public interests rather than the special interests.  Let's work to save the American Dream.

Contact person: Lauren Jones (301) 238-4979    officeofthepastor@mtennon.org

SOURCE Mt. Ennon Baptist Church

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