Growing up in Iowa provided me with a midwestern attitude towards land stewardship. I understood that our existence depended on the land. No land, no food. I didn’t become interested in the issue of land ownership or the value of land until my dad bought the family farm from his brothers and sister – thus likely guaranteeing that my sisters and I will inherit the land and the debt to go along with it.
My first job after college was as a youth director at a church in Mason City, Iowa. I rented when I first moved to town until I realized that the interest rates on home mortgages were low enough that it was actually cheaper to buy than to rent. I spent three and a half years making house payments until the call to California came. That was in 2007 right before the so-called housing bubble burst. I sold my house and got out of my mortgage commitments just in time.
The housing crisis of 2008 might be considered the beginning of our current recession and just another symptom of a sick ecconomy. The media has recently begun talking about a “double dip” recession which seems to assume that we’ve recovered from the first one. In reality things have only gotten worse and I think we might as well call the whole mess a “depression” and get out of all this denial.
Regardless of what it’s called there are still hundreds of thousands of families who are being evicted for lack of payment. This article puts the number at 191,000 in 2010 but sheriff departments across the country haven’t released their statistics yet. Keep in mind that wall street speculators were gambling on whether or not these families would default on the loans.
Families who have been evicted can hopefully find some solace in the fact that there are agencies and advocates who can act as helpful resources for those that need them. One such group is the Home Preservation Network. Click here for them. This is a network of lawyers, bloggers,and tenant rights activists that are fighting back against predatory lenders. From their website: “to inform, educate, and collaborate in our collective effort to fight unfair and fraudulent foreclosure practices across the United States.”
This site has up to date and relevant news coverage concerning the housing crisis. It also has a decent list of resources, law firms and bloggers making this issue their business. The site also has a number of first hand accounts of individuals and families who have been evicted. The site used to be called “shame the banks” but they’ve apparently moved in a more positive direction and have made networking with like minded groups a priority.
When I take a step back and think about our housing crisis on a global level, some of the language that is used in discussing the crisis has some profound implications to any notions of american superiority. One of these phrases is “toxic mortgages.” To the bankers, the mortgages were toxic because there was no chance of them being paid off. Then when huge investment banks like Lehmann Brothers get caught holding too many of them – well, it’s enough to bankrupt some and provoke the federal government to bail out the rest. It’s also enough to nationalize mortgage firms like fannie and freddie.
On a global scale, the housing crisis essentially means that the value of American land is diminishing.
It all seems rather silly to someone like me who doesn’t believe in any sort of financial value in relation to land. I also believe that the idea of private property is in direct violation of natural law. But it shouldn’t surprise any of us that our properties are now considered “toxic.” After all, our migrating european ancestors massacred and usurped the land from the “native” americans in the first place. What could be more toxic than forcing people from the land they were cultivating?
Sharon sings Woody