Chipping Away at the Housing Crisis

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Last March, Democratic Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (Oh-11) and Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette held a press conference out in Slavic Village to announce legislation they planned to introduce. It proposed to issue bonds to pay for the demolition of abandoned housing that was beyond repair in order to help shore up the values of the surrounding occupied homes and improve the communities.

LaTourette has retired from Congress, and the bill, which would have incurred no cost and required no new money, never got anywhere. Fudge says now that's because it was a low priority in Washington during an election year in which everybody was busy back home campaigning (We need to do something about that too, but that's a different story!)

Fudge has not given up on the idea, however. And today she held a press conference with two new colleagues from the Cleveland area: Republican David Joyce, who replaced LaTourette in Oh-14, and Marcy Kaptur of Toledo, whose district was infamously drawn all the way to Cleveland.

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*Fudge, Kaptur & Joyce*

The trio, along with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Zack Reed, councilman of ward2 where the event was held, Rich Cochran of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, and Williams Whitney of the CuyahogaCounty Landbank, spoke about the bill which they're calling the Restore Our Neighborhoods Act of 2013, how it works, and what it would do.

Fudge said that the bill would allocate six billion dollars across the country, half of which would be split evenly, and half of which would target the hardest hit areas. She emphasized that the plan does have bipartisan support and that Joyce would be talking to his Republican colleagues about it. (Pat Tiberi of Oh-12 was mentioned as a supporter).

Reed emphasized that demolition needs to be selective. He pointed out that the human services building in which the event was being held was built because another building was demolished. But he mentioned a former Carpenters Union Hall up the street that he said was a solid building which could be repurposed.

Marcy Kaptur went beyond simply echoing her support for the measure. She talked about the underlying causes of the housing crash, which she was "was exacerbated by the lack of federal response." "I've never seen anything like it in my life," she said. "When housing crashed in 2008, Ohio is estimated to have lost $20 billion in value that just evaporated."

But she became especially passionate when she talked about the role of Wall Street in creating and dragging out the housing crisis, saying that it boiled down to the way mortgages were done in this country.

She said, "Those Institutions became involved in ways that were destructive. There were no criminal prosecutions for damage done. [Because of] the structure of banking in this country, people who continue to pay mortgages pay them to the very institutions that did this. We need to look at how do you provide economic justice to communities and not provide a tranche of money to the people who did this. This [bill] doesn’t do the justice I want but it moves money to the communities."

"Thank you for allowing me to put that on the record," she concluded.

Clearly, this is something she feels powerfully about. I spoke with her briefly afterward and she reiterated that she's angry that no one was held accountable and that the same institutions that caused the crisis continue to profit from it, that they are reluctant to turn over uninhabitable homes for demolition because then they'd have to write them off as losses. Meanwhile, communities pay the price in lost home values.

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* Marcy Kaptur may look like your favorite sweet little aunt, but she thinks some of you banksters should be facing criminal charges *

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