My Holiday Wish List

The holiday season is a time when we express our lofty wishes and set new resolutions for personal improvement, but there is nothing lofty about my holiday wish list this year. It is pragmatic and reasonable; better yet, it will not cost taxpayers a dime.

According to new research from the Center for Responsible Lending, 635,000 Latino families have already lost their homes — so have 397,000 Black and 1.5 million White families. Three years into the foreclosure crisis, and there is no end in sight. Americans still seek relief.

Our policymakers can take concrete steps immediately to improve the housing market and keep families in their homes. Here is my list:

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac embrace proven home-saving solutions.

Fannie and Freddie fine banks for pursuing foreclosure too slowly and refuse to write down principal balances for deserving homeowners. Much of this is at the behest of their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Administration, headed by Acting Director Ed DeMarco. Fannie and Freddie control so many of our nation’s mortgages; there will be little relief for the housing market until they get on board.

A director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Forty-five Republican senators voted to block Richard Cordray’s nomination as the CFPB director on Thursday, December 8. By doing so, they effectively empowered payday lenders, private student lenders, non-bank mortgage lenders, and debt collection agencies to continue targeting middle-class pocketbooks unchecked.

Justice for the wrongfully foreclosed

More than a year ago the robo-signing scandal was uncovered; untold numbers of homeowners were shuffled into unwarranted foreclosure. The American public has seen no one reprimanded for this gross unlawful misconduct. That is inexcusable. One federal bank overseer, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, has settled with national servicers under their supervision. However, the process is so opaque and terms are so vague it’s hard to believe justice will be served. Families need true relief: accountability for wrongful foreclosures, restitution for robo-signing victims, principal reduction, and an outreach and enforcement system that works.

Many of our families have given up. They have lost faith in dysfunctional housing programs and servicers and feel they have no recourse for their losses. In a recent visit with housing counselors in Los Angeles, California Attorney General (AG) Kamala Harris said she was on a “truth-seeking mission” to hold financial institutions accountable for robbing families of their homes. While weary homeowners are tired of bold promises that do not translate into equally bold action, AG Harris has given us a reason to be cautiously optimistic by partnering with Nevada AG Catherine Cortez Masto to investigate mortgage fraud and misconduct. Their announcement comes on the heels of Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley’s lawsuit against the nation’s five largest lenders, which has also inspired hope among the residents of her state.

These efforts are critical and inspirational, but they won’t be enough. None of the solutions on my list will cost taxpayers money. But they will require President Obama to use his bully pulpit to put homeowners ahead of special interests. He should fight harder for our families, and start by pushing through Cordray’s nomination. Cordray is a well-qualified nominee with bipartisan support who can offer true relief. The president must also rein in Ed DeMarco, whose brazen refusal to employ home-saving solutions has no place in the Obama Administration. Here’s to a brighter 2012.

Janis Bowdler
Janis Bowdler is president of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. Bowdler joined JPMorgan Chase in 2013, before which she served as director of economic policy at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR, now UnidosUS). Bowdler also served as a project manager at Famicos Foundation, a community development corporation working in the Hough and Glenville neighborhoods of Cleveland, Ohio.

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