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Negative equity is disproportionately concentrated in the Chicago region’s communities of color, Woodstock Institute report shows

March 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Tom Feltner | Vice President
Woodstock Institute

Homeowners with mortgages in African American communities more than twice as likely to be underwater as homeowners in white communities

CHICAGO–Negative equity is disproportionately concentrated in the Chicago region’s African American, Latino, and majority minority neighborhoods, a new report from Woodstock Institute found. The report also found that borrowers in communities of color have much less equity on average than do borrowers in predominantly white communities.

View the full report here:  http://bit.ly/strugglingtostayafloat

Join us for a telephone briefing Tuesday March 27 at 10am CT:  http://stayingafloat.eventbrite.com/

The report, “Struggling to Stay Afloat:  Negative Equity in Communities of Color in the Chicago Six County Region,” used data from a major provider of mortgage and home value data to examine patterns of underwater homes in communities of various racial and ethnic compositions in the Chicago six county region in 2011. It found that:

  • Nearly one in four residential properties in the Chicago six county region is underwater, with just under $25 billion of negative equity. The average underwater property has 31.8 percent more outstanding mortgage debt than the property is worth.
  • Borrowers in communities of color are much more likely to be underwater than are borrowers in white communities.
  • Borrowers in communities of color are more than twice as likely as are borrowers in white communities to have little to no equity in their homes. In highly African American communities in the Chicago six county region, 40.5 percent of borrowers are underwater, while another 5.4 percent are nearly underwater. Similarly, 40.3 percent of properties are underwater in predominantly Latino communities and 5.3 percent are nearly underwater. In contrast, only 16.7 percent of properties in predominantly white communities are underwater, with another 4.4 percent nearly underwater.
  • Almost three times as many properties in communities of color are severely underwater compared to properties in white communities. In predominantly African American communities, 30.1 percent of properties have loan-to-value (LTV) ratios—a comparison of outstanding mortgage debt to home value—exceeding 110 percent, while that figure is 30 percent in predominantly Latino communities. In contrast, just 10.1 percent of the properties in predominantly white communities have LTVs exceeding 110 percent.
  • Borrowers in communities of color have much less equity in their homes than do borrowers in white communities, resulting in a significant wealth gap.
  •  Only about one-third of homeowners in communities of color have significant equity in their homes. In predominantly African American communities, 34.5 percent of borrowers have more than 25 percent equity in their homes, while 33.1 percent of borrowers in Latino communities have more than 25 percent equity in their homes. Fifty-five percent of borrowers in predominantly white communities have more than 25 percent equity.
  • Borrowers in communities of color have much higher average loan-to-value ratios than do borrowers in predominantly white communities. The average LTV ratio is 92.1 in predominantly African American communities and 87.4 in Latino communities, compared with an average LTV ratio of 67.7 in predominantly white communities.

Negative equity contributes to community decline by potentially leading to increased foreclosure activity, threatening the success of foreclosure prevention programs, and draining neighborhood wealth. In addition, the destruction of assets caused by negative home equity may disproportionately threaten the economic security of people of color because home equity is a larger proportion of their net worth than it is for white people.

View the full report here:  http://bit.ly/strugglingtostayafloat

The report concluded with a number of policy recommendations to reduce the negative impacts of concentrated negative equity, including:

  • Servicers should use principal reduction as a foreclosure prevention tool more broadly.
  • The Federal Housing Finance Authority should permit loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to be eligible for principal reductions.
  • Servicers should streamline processes for short sales.

Tom Feltner | Vice President

Woodstock Institute

29 E Madison Suite 1710 | Chicago, Illinois 60602

T 312/368-0310 x2028  | F 312/368-0316 | M 312/927-0391

www.woodstockinst.org | tfeltner@woodstockinst.org | @tfeltner

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EPI News: Today’s labor market – Mixed signals

March 16, 2012 1 comment

English: Bureau of Labor Statistics logo RGB c...

The latest assortment of government data tells different stories about the strength of the economy, providing no guarantee that we are yet experiencing a self-sustaining, robust jobs recovery.

The good news: State-level data show signs of recovery

State-level data released this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that most states have been experiencing the steady progress towards economic recovery seen nationally. Over the four-month period from October 2011 to January 2012, every state except New York experienced a reduction in its unemployment rate. Over the course of a year (from January 2011 to January 2012), seven states experienced job growth exceeding 2.0 percent, while North Dakota experienced growth of 5.7 percent. Notably, five states (Alaska, Mississippi, Missouri, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin) lost jobs over this period, led by Wisconsin’s loss of 12,500 jobs. (Click here for interactive state maps.)

Despite these generally positive trends, four states and the District of Columbia have unemployment rates at or above 10.0 percent (led by Nevada at 12.7 percent), while 11 states plus the District of Columbia have unemployment rates of 9.0 percent or higher.

“States looking to further spur economic growth should invest more significantly in infrastructure, such as transportation networks, schools, and broadband, while avoiding budget cuts that would impede economic recovery today and could compromise future economic prosperity,” wrote EPI’s Douglas Hall, director of the Economic Analysis and Research Network.

The not-so-good news: Low level of voluntary quits should temper recent optimism about the labor market

Through examining voluntary quits, this week’s Economic Snapshot provides further evidence that the country’s labor market is not yet out of the woods. Voluntary quits, defined as workers who voluntarily leave their jobs, are high when job opportunities are plentiful and employed workers have the flexibility to look for jobs that pay better and more closely match their skills and experience. During downturns, on the other hand, the number of voluntary quits drops as job opportunities become scarce. The Snapshot shows that the number of voluntary quits is still more than 30 percent below the pre-recession level—and has seen no improvement since last summer.

More of the same: Job-seekers ratio remains unchanged

Finally, Tuesday’s release of the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed decreases in both job openings and hires in January. However, the job-seekers ratio—the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings—was 3.7-to-1 in January, unchanged from the revised December ratio.

“The softness in January’s job openings is inconsistent with the strength of January’s employment and unemployment report,” explained EPI labor economist Heidi Shierholz. “These inconsistencies underscore that it is too soon to declare that we have entered a self-sustained period of robust job growth.”

Brad Plumer of the Washington Post cited Shierholz’s analysis for his Wonkblog piece “Why are wages still stagnant? Blame the labor market”:

“There are still 3.7 job seekers for every available employment opportunity. That’s down considerably from the brutal 6.7-to-1 ratio seen in July, 2009. But as Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute points out, the current ratio is also higher than at any point during the 2001 downturn. Across just about every industry, competition remains intense for a limited number of jobs, which means that employers are under less pressure to offer higher pay in order to entice prospective workers.”

EPI in the news

Shierholz’s analysis of last Friday’s release of the Employment Situation Summary by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was also picked up by multiple national media outlets, including the Washington Post, NPR, McClatchy, Huffington Post, and CNBC.

  • Speaking to NPR’s Scott Neuman, Shierholz explained why the labor market still needs to gain many more jobs to return to its pre-recession health, and why it’s difficult to predict when this will occur. “We don’t have some historical perspective to compare this to and go, ‘OK, we know from experience that when the unemployment rate gets to X, or the number of jobs gets to whatever, that’s when people will start coming back,’” she said.
  • And Shierholz told the Huffington Post’s Lila Shapiro that although we are seeing job growth, “it’s still a hellish job search out there” for job seekers.

EPI President Lawrence Mishel’s latest research on young workers’ declining wages continues to inform the national economic conversation. Mishel’s findings were most recently cited by the New York Times,CBS News, Huffington Post, and Think Progress.

  • From the New York Times editorial “Better Numbers on Jobs”:
    “Years into a weak labor market, and with years to go before full recovery, the scars are becoming all too apparent. Recent data from the Economic Policy Institute shows that the inflation-adjusted hourly wage of college-educated men aged 23 to 29 dropped 5.2 percent from 2007 to 2011, and for female college graduates of the same age, 4.4 percent. Joblessness and wage declines are also pronounced for those with only a high school education. For those men aged 19 to 25, wages fell 8 percent from 2007 to 2011. For those young women, the decline was 3.1 percent.”
  • CBS News’ MoneyWatch:Recent college graduates have had a hard time landing jobs and those that have jobs, are earning less. The Economic Policy Institute found that the average inflation-adjusted hourly wage for male college graduates aged 23 to 29 dropped 11 percent over the past decade. For female college graduates of the same age, the average wage is down 7.6 percent.”
  • Huffington Post: “A new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute shows what a lot of younger Americans have probably noticed for themselves: even if you’re lucky enough to have a job, it’s still tough to get ahead. Over the last decade, wages for younger male college grads have plummeted by 11 percent, while women college grads saw their paychecks drop by 7.6 percent.”
  • And Think Progress: “Not only has the Great Recession been bad for workers entering the workforce, but as the Economic Policy Institute noted, the entire last decade has essentially been lost in terms of entry-level wages.”

How I Remember Patty Rouse

March 15, 2012 Leave a comment

March 15, 2012
By Bart Harvey, Former Enterprise Chairman and CEO

When I heard about Patty’s condition, I went in to see her two Saturdays ago, expecting the worst.

When I got to Vantage House, she was alone, sitting in a chair in her room with perfect posture, perfectly coiffed, primly dressed and totally alert. I was quite surprised, and said, “Hi there Patty,” and in that sweet Norfolk drawl she answered back, “Well, hi there.”

I couldn’t tell whether she knew who I was, but she covered it perfectly. Then, suddenly, a Catholic priest entered, saying he was covering for the Episcopal minister who was out of town, and with great solemnity asked how she was doing. She answered back that she was doing just fine – but how was the priest doing? Was he feeling okay?

I nearly burst out laughing, shaking my head and saying to myself, “They just don’t make them like Patty anymore.” And I heard in the background her saying to the priest, “It was nice of you to stop by, and if I can help you at all, let me know.”

Patty sitting there in her nicely patterned wool suit and her lovely Southern manner and pattern of conversation brought a flood of memories back to me – of her and Jim, of many trips together, of the start of Enterprise 30 years ago, of all the wonderful people at Enterprise who cared so well for her and her appreciation of her Enterprise family, of her own family and all the Rouses, of the remarkable journey she took and the people she helped as part of a duo and in her own right.

Bart-harvey-remarks

I marveled at the journey Patty Rouse had taken. An independent Southern girl who won a sailing contest as a teenager, the first woman Commissioner of the Norfolk Public Housing Authority, a divorcee who struck out on her own and let a tennis match and Jim Rouse bring her north and into the maelstrom of real estate development and Enterprise and poor neighborhoods.

She adapted to her new life and became deeply involved at Enterprise as vice president and secretary and served on its various boards. She was always looking out for her Enterprise family, attending functions, giving Jim the high sign when his speeches went on too long, tending to the details, lending her support.

She never took credit herself, always saying “Jim did that,” but he couldn’t have and wouldn’t have done it without her support, help, encouragement and devotion. People at Enterprise understood that, I understood that, her family understood that.

Outside of Enterprise, she sat on a number of commissions, tasks forces and boards, but her heart was always with Jim Rouse, Enterprise and much of the mission work of Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C.

She took quite a journey and quite a risk, and after Jim died, she continued on and I was grateful that she was carrying on a legacy and living it every day, until she couldn’t anymore.

Enterprise has lost its other co-founder, but I believe, and I know Patty does too, what Patty and Jim Rouse did deserves to not only continue but to be multiplied many times. They weren’t casual about the importance of what they were doing and they gave up a lot to carry out their beliefs. They believed that those at Enterprise would be up to the task and do even more than they could imagine.

Art, Culture, and Community Development Collaboratory Begins Research in New Orleans

March 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Reposted from: Imagining America: Artist and Scholars in Public Life
Posted on March 5, 2012 by Jeremy Lane

By Micah Salkind, Doctoral Student in American Studies, Brown University, Catherine Michna, PhD, Instructor, University of Massachusetts, Boston, and Ruth Janisch Lake, Assistant Director, Civic Engagement Center, Macalester College

IA’s Art, Culture, and Community Development Collaboratory spent Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend in New Orleans working on the first phase of our participatory action research. We documented and interviewed participants from several IA member institutions’ civic engagement programs and cultural partnerships in that city. We began at Xavier University, where longtime professor (and IA board member) Ron Bechet explained how the Xavier Art Department’s longstanding cultural partnerships with artists and community organizers shape his institution, affect his collaborators, and contribute to cultural life in the city.

Bechet introduced us to Big Chief Darryl Montana of the Yellow Pocahontas Mardi Gras Indians, who has been working with the Community Arts Program at Xavier since 1997, developing Mardi Gras Indian Arts (MGIA) education and youth programming for middle-school children. According to Montana, the longstanding partnership between Mardi Gras Indian practitioners and Visual Arts Professors Bechet and MaPó Kinnord-Payton has helped to facilitate a growing recognition of Mardi Gras Indian art and performance as the “heartbeat” of New Orleans’ cultural landscape.

In 2007, the three created an intensive hands-on cultural immersion and  training program for middle school age children from Xavier’s Gert Town neighborhood and greater New Orleans. Each summer since 1997, youth have learned how Mardi Gras Indian traditions developed while acquiring costume-making skills. Beginning this year, the program will take place year-round since Xavier has expanded its support for MGIA into a continuous component of its community arts curriculum.

For Montana and the Yellow Pocahontas tribe, MGIA is a platform to develop organizing and pedagogical strategies around intellectual property issues that affect their artist communities and city. Cultivating long-term engagement through MGIA is part of Xavier’s complementary commitment to educating its own students and Gert Town youth, about ways that elites, throughout the city’s history, have profited in unethical ways from black working class culture. The MGIA program is itself an ethical practice that models ways of acknowledging and supporting black cultural production by supporting the communities that cultivate and share it.

Reflecting on the role of the MGIA and similar programs at Xavier, Bechet noted the importance of university/community cultural partnerships to New Orleans’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina: “You can see it one individual at a time.” For example, when Xavier contributed financially so Darryl Montana could come home and rebuild his house, “he had an ability to help the next generation … individuals [like him] have taken on the responsibility of passing on the values of this place and what’s important about it to them.” We saw an example of such locally-grounded, collective-minded values first hand when we visited Xavier’s newest partner, Jenga Mwendo, founder of the Backyard Gardener’s Network (BGN). BGN’s “Guerrilla Gardeners” project in the Lower Ninth Ward not only directly works to address the problem of “food deserts” in African American neighborhoods, but also facilitates discussions between community members, city leaders, and student volunteers about the role that gardening plays in community building and neighborhood revitalization in the post-Katrina city.

On Saturday, led by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Associate Professor and Interim Associate Vice Chancellor Cheryl Ajirotutu, we participated in UMW’s annual reception for their New Orleanian community partners at the U.S. Mint Museum. We met UWM students and administrators and had the chance to interview a wide range of UWM’s local partners, who have been collaborating on the University’s winter term course in New Orleans since 2005. We also enjoyed zydeco piano playing by UWM partner, Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes.

Later in the weekend, we joined Barnes and UWM, Xavier, and Macalester groups at the Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training (VIET) Center in New Orleans East where we participated in VIET’s annual Martin Luther King Day of Service. There we met Cyndi Nguyen, VIET’s Executive Director, and saw and heard about VIET’s thriving community health and cultural/economic development programs for youth and elders. Both the Macalester College students enrolled in the New Orleans and the Performance of Urban Renewal course and the UMW students working towards degrees in social work, as well as those who are taking Professor Ajirotutu’s cultural history course in New Orleans, prepared for their service at VIET by viewing and discussing the film “A Village Called Versailles,” a documentary on the inter-generational, faith-based community organizing of New Olreans’ Vietnamese community, which was not only affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but also by a new government-imposed toxic landfill.

The group from Macalester College included 12 first year Bonner Community Scholars enrolled in a course titled, “New Orleans and the Performance of Urban Renewal,” which was co-taught by Ruth Janisch Lake (collaboratory member) and Molly Olsen.  This intensive J-term (January interim) course assumed a human-centered, arts-based urban studies perspective on the continued efforts of New Orleans to restructure and redefine itself in the 21st century amidst various ecological, economic and political challenges. The course provided students with the essential critical, historical, and cultural framework through which to interpret various site visits and civic engagement projects with local artists, activists, and scholars in New Orleans. This was the seventh Macalester group that Civic Engagement Center staff member Ruth Janisch Lake has brought to New Orleans since January 2006.

Our team members interviewed several Macalester Bonner Community Scholars about their program’s practices of community-based learning and civic engagement. During their seven days in the city, the Macalester group connected with a Community Arts class with Ron Bechet and also learned more about New Orleans historical and ethnic geography with Tulane University Professor Richard Campanella. They visited Backstreet Cultural Museum in Tremé and this year participated in a second line parade with the Undefeated Divas in Central City. They also meet with a range of non-profit organizations and community leaders as they discussed issues of race and class in the city’s uneven recovery from Hurricane Katrina. As one Bonner student noted:

The course definitely expanded my awareness and deepened my knowledge about the communities performing urban renewal in New Orleans. I loved the way the week was laid out and thought it was conducive to experiential, meaningful learning. We started the week off with a fascinating tour with Tulane Professor Rich Campanella and really appreciated the information he shared with us about NOLA’s ethnic and physical geography. Participating in the second-line parade gave me a powerful sense of the importance of having cultural traditions to return to when tragedies strike. Visiting Robert Green in the Ninth Ward was another influential experience, hearing about the ways in which he has advocated for and helped to rebuild his community post-Katrina. I also appreciated getting to visit the Vietnamese community in New Orleans East, and seeing how incredibly organized and resilient this largely youth-led community was in working towards positive change. Finally, I valued interacting with families whose homes we installed CFL light bulbs in through Project Green.

To round out our weekend of research and conversation, IA team members visited the Ashé Cultural Arts Center in Central City to participate in a night of singing celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and to meet with students and faculty at Ashé’s new alternative college program—Ashé College Unbound (ACU). College Unbound began in Providence, RI, where IA Page Program Director Adam Bush worked with Big Picture Learning, a non-profit focused on developing internship-based curricula, and Roger Williams University’s School of Continuing Studies to create a student-centered bachelors degree program. In its first year, ACU has enrolled eleven students, primarily adult learners and longstanding community leaders, with a wide range of work experience and cultural development skills under their belts. The ACU student body works collaboratively with the organization’s advisory board and academic and community arts mentors towards a degree while matriculating in, and helping to create, semester-long workshops on housing, economics, culture, and education policy.

This spring, our collaboratory will produce a short video that will explore how these and other university projects have, in fact, become part of New Orleans’ cultural history by not only addressing historical inequity, but also by helping to create a new paradigm of the struggle for justice in the city. We also plan to create a white paper outlining some of the promising practices we see enacted in university/community cultural partnerships. Foregrounding how students have become more engaged, civic actors, as a result of their participation in these projects, we will also listen for different and surprising effects of their participation. We hope that the archival materials we create will be useful as scholars around the globe try to make sense of post-Katrina New Orleans.

New Orleans is an amazing first case study, which we hope to complement with work in other cities and with other institutions affiliated with our working group. Current members hail from Holyoke, Baltimore, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Providence, Syracuse, and Milwaukee. This is just the beginning!

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Photo credits: 1) University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Xavier University, and Macalester University students and the AC&CD collaboratory team at VIET’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, by Ruth Janisch Lake; 2) Jenga Mwengo, Backyard Gardener’s Network; 3) Ron Bechet, Micah Salkind, and Catherine Michna at the University of Wisconsin Madison’s Thank You reception for their local partners, by Ruth Janisch Lake; 4) Macalester College Bonner Community Scholars learning more about the environmental and human geography of NOLA at the Irish Channel stop on the city tour with Professor Rich Campanella; and 5) Dr. Cheryl Ajirotutu with AC&CD videographers, Hubie Vigreux and Alejandra Tovar, by Ruth Janisch Lake


States with highest foreclosure rates shift

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment
Foreclosure Today
Posted 02/17/2012
There has been a shift in states with the highest foreclosure rates. About a month ago, Nevada took the number one spot followed by Arizona, California, Georgia and Utah according to RealtyTrac. Now that the settlement is in place there are hopes of improvement among the rates but in the meantime, the rate of those in mortgage default and in need of help with foreclosure continues to shift and increase. The following stats were reported in an article on Yahoo! Real Estate.
1. Florida—
2011 foreclosure rate: 11.9%
December, 2011 unemployment: 9.9% (6th highest)
Home price change (2006Q3-2011Q3): -49% (3rd largest decline)
Processing period: 135 days

2. New Jersey—

2011 foreclosure rate: 6.4%
December, 2011 unemployment: 9% (13th highest)
Home price change (2006Q3-2011Q3): -22.6% (14th largest decline)
Processing period: 270 days

3. Illinois—

2011 foreclosure rate: 5.4%
December, 2011 unemployment: 9.8% (7th highest)
Home price change (2006Q3-2011Q3): -29% (7th largest decline)
Processing period: 300 days

4. Nevada—

2011 foreclosure rate: 5.3%
December, 2011 unemployment: 12.6% (the highest)
Home price change (2006Q3-2011Q3): -59.3% (the largest decline)
Processing period: 116 days

5. New York—

2011 foreclosure rate: 4.6%
December, 2011 unemployment: 8% (23rd highest)
Home price change (2006Q3-2011Q3): -13.6% (23rd largest decline)
Processing period: 445 days

Is There a Wikipedia to Go Dark for Homeowners?

February 7, 2012 Leave a comment
English: Foreclosure Sign, Mortgage Crisis


Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress
Posted: 02/ 6/2012 5:44 pm

When Congress was on the brink of pushing through legislation that Internet advocates opposed, over four million online signatures were gathered quickly. Congress relented.

Today, millions of American households are poised to benefit directly from the opportunity to reduce mortgage payments, avoid foreclosure, build up some savings, or have a few thousand dollars to spend a little more freely. Yet while even conservative economists believe that easier refinancings will boost the economy and help millions more families — a major part of Congress is ready to say a big, “No, let’s not even try.”

Not a day elapsed after President Obama outlined a more ambitious set of proposals to let average families take advantage of the same low interest rates that have benefited upper income households and large corporations before Speaker Boehner among others declared the idea dead on arrival.

“All [the refinancing plan] does is delay the clearing of the market,” Speaker Boehner told reporters. “As soon as the market clears and we understand where the prices really are — [that] will be the most important thing we can do in order to improve home values around the country.”

Saying millions of families should wait until the “market clears” is the modern equivalent of “let them eat cake.” Clearing the market is an economist’s term for letting the tidal wave of foreclosures continue. But unchecked foreclosures drag down everyone’s home values, let vacant homes pile up in neighborhoods, and force families to choose between struggling to make needlessly high mortgage payments or become another default statistic with ruined credit.

It is time to ask lenders and investors to shoulder some of the burden, and Congress should be taking the lead on this, not finding objections. As my colleagues at the Center for American Progress and I explain in detail, the principles of accountability to avoid more foreclosures — especially for families who haven’t missed payments — is at the core of the administration’s expanded proposal for making refinancing easier.

Families with mortgages, however, are not an easily organized constituency. Unlike the protesters most engaged in social media who were the bulwark of those moved to criticize SOPA and PIPA, borrowers are not necessarily the internet generation nor an easily reached interest group.

But given the politics of “embrace the opposite of what Obama proposes,” homeowners struggling to keep making payments could use a Wiki dark day of their own. And so could the tens of millions of others who live next door, as no neighborhood really wants another foreclosure.

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