Vicki Valentine has had to live through the foreclosure nightmare that is affecting all of America. She recently watched a crew of men break the lock on her door and take possession of the home she owned for 30 years. Her father paid off the mortgage in 1984, only to see his daughter lose the home 26 years later over a $362 water bill.
The debt started small, but after it had been sold to collection agents and bigger banks, it reached $3,600, more than the woman could afford to pay. Before long, they came and took her house.
Foreclosures are big business, as companies and small investors make a quick buck by selling bad loans to one another and profiting handsomely when people are kicked on to the street. This is especially true in the city of Baltimore, where companies like Wells Fargo are being sued by the government for aiming bad loans toward black and brown people and poor inner-city communities. The NAACP was heavily criticized for taking donations from Wells Fargo, so I sincerely hope it is going to use some of this money to help women like Vicki Valentine get back in to their homes.
The foreclosure issue is very personal to me, since I had to watch my grandparents lose the house they’d occupied for the past 45 years. According to the National Tax Liens Association, investors bought $30 billion worth of real estate debt in 2009, doubling the amount purchased the year before. In the city of Baltimore, where Valentine lives, the number of foreclosures has nearly doubled since the end of the housing bubble in 2006. One in five of the tax liens in Baltimore is for unpaid taxes or bills of less than $1,000. This is the saddest part of it all.
My respected friend Roland Martin recently wrote a piece about how the Obama foreclosure program is kicking out twice as many people as it’s helping. I certainly hope this isn’t the whole story, but at the very least, one would expect that if a government can come up with nearly a trillion dollars to bail out irresponsible companies, it can also come up with enough money to help people like Vicki Valentine pay their water bills. This is disgraceful.
Watch Vicki Valentine talk about her home lose here: