U.S. Social Forum: Foreclosures Still the Story in Detroit

Bombed out houses and unemployment lines; empty factories and empty lots. These are the images that have come to animate Detroit's decline, its deep and deepening depression.

By Seth Freed Wessler Jun 23, 2010

Bombed out houses and unemployment lines; empty factories and empty lots. These are the images that have come to animate Detroit’s decline, its deep and deepening depression, its seemingly disproportionate share of the pain doled out by the country’s economic downturn. This story is true. On a drive through Detroit’s neighborhoods today with Sandra Hines, a local organizer with the group Moratorium Now!, a group fighting against the continuing crisis of foreclosure and eviction, I rolled through whole neighborhoods filled with burnt out houses and overgrown lots where homes once stood. For decades these neighborhoods have been deconstructed, first by redlining and the disinvestment that accompanied white flight and then by the decline of auto industry jobs. But this is not exactly the story of Detroit in this recession. By the time the foreclosure crisis hit, many Black neighborhoods were already gone, the homes without residents to be evicted, the wealth already vanished. It was in the other neighborhoods, those that had survived, those that were thriving, that many families were robbed of their homes. Sandra Hines is part of one of those families. I met her two years ago when I was traveling the country researching the racial impact of the economic downturn for [our Race and Recession Report.](a href="http://www.arc.org/recession/) Hines showed me the home she moved to with her parents when she was 18, the home into which they they poured their hard earned income and that they passed down to Sandra and and their two other daughters when they died. When times got tough and the family needed money to get some work done on the house, they took out a loan. Without their knowing, they’d bought a predatory adjustable loan. The payments exploded and they got behind on their payments. The home was lost to foreclosure. They moved to an apartment. The family’s home is in west Detroit on a street lined with old trees and mid century two-story brick homes with cropped lawns. The house stands there empty, owned by someone who bought it from the bank for a fraction of its value. The building that held two generations of her family’s wealth and a lifetime of her memories is now padlocked and she’s shut on the outside. ColorLines will be releasing Sandra Hines’ full story in the coming weeks as part of a video collaboration with GritTV. Check back for more later. Her story is like that of millions of others and it’s not a story past. As Michelle Chen just wrote on Racewire, a new report by the Center for Responsible Lending shows:

The recession still has more damage left to do. From 2007 to 2009, about 2.5 million foreclosures were completed throughout the country, and now, millions more homes are facing the same fate. About 1 in 6 Latino homeowners, and 1 in 10 Black homeowners have either lost their homes already or are at “imminent risk,” compared to 7 percent of White owners, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. The organization’s new analysis of foreclosure statistics from 2007 to 2009 confirms previous research, but the timing of the report is a bleak reminder that the economic crisis has not yet bottomed out in many areas.

Read Michelle’s whole blog here. Foreclosures have largely left the news. Unfortunately, they are very much still the story. Photo: ColorLines/Hatty Lee