Jackson Takes On Mortgage Crisis
Planning Rallies, Activist Criticizes Bush's Response

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke last night in Prince George's County, hit hard by the mortgage foreclosure crisis, to express dissatisfaction with President Bush's plans for coping with it and to mobilize efforts to target Wall street.

Jackson said his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and other groups plan to march on the New York financial center tomorrow.

"It all began with the banks on Wall Street, and that's where we have to start," Jackson said in an interview before the town hall meeting at Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington. About 75 religious leaders, elected officials and others attended.

Jackson said the protesters want "renegotiation and restructuring [of loans] and not repossession of homes." In addition to the march in New York, rallies are planned for the Washington area, Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Plans for the Wall Street march were announced last month by Jackson's group.

Maryland's foreclosure ranking jumped from 40th in the nation last year to 18th in June, state officials have said. They said that Prince George's has the highest percentage of homes in foreclosure in the state and that Fort Washington is one of the most severely affected communities in the region.

Jackson said the president's response was "very little, very late."

"He brings an umbrella when people need a tent," Jackson said. "Bush's plan does not correspond to the size of the problem."

The president's proposal would allow some homeowners facing foreclosure to freeze interest rates for up to five years and refinance their mortgages. Bush said it could help about 1.2 million homeowners.

The civil rights activist said that without further action, the surge in foreclosures will "bleed into every aspect of life."

"It's not just the borrower in trouble now; it's the next-door neighbor of the borrower," he said. "It devalues their property, and if property taxes aren't as high as they once were, that affects police, teachers and firemen."

In addition to the financial implications, the marches will spotlight racial disparities in the crisis, Jackson said.

"We know there was a lot of targeting, redlining and steering," Jackson said, noting that he selected Prince George's, the wealthiest black county in the country, and Fort Washington for his meeting because of the relatively high number of foreclosures.

In July it was reported that more than 2,300 foreclosures had been reported in the county this year.

A report released in September by the Federal Reserve and other regulators found that minorities throughout the nation were given loans with higher interest rates or charges in greater percentages than white applicants did.

Controlling for various factors, the report found that 30.3 percent of the loans for home purchases by African Americans were higher-cost loans, compared with 17.7 percent of loans for whites. The gap of 12.6 percentage points exceeded the gap of 10 percentage points found in the 2005 survey.

Black borrowers received high-cost loans 52.8 percent of the time when they refinanced home loans last year, compared with 49.3 percent in 2005, the report said.

Hispanic borrowers received high-cost refinancings 37.7 percent of the time, up from 33.8 percent in 2005. The rate for white borrowers was 25.7 percent last year, compared with 21 percent in 2005.

"The incidence of higher-priced lending for blacks and Hispanic white borrowers is notably greater than for non-Hispanic whites," the report said. "Similar patterns are shown in racial and ethnic differences in denial rates."

Figures cited at last night's meeting indicated that foreclosures in Prince George's far exceeded those in other suburban Maryland counties between 2005 and last year.

Zaunder Saucer, who attended the meeting, said she had not realized the disparity was so great. She said she went to learn more and make certain she does not experience such problems.

Staff writer Martin Weil contributed to this report.

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