The bulldozer has long been a symbol of mass displacement for public housing residents in the United States. Today, the bulldozer may now hold the symbolic power for a whole new swath of the U.S. population – homeowners hard hit by the foreclosure crisis. In the wake of decades of speculative investing, over-leveraging and financial chicanery in the private housing market, banks are making the move to demolish thousands of foreclosed homes across the nation.
Roughly 18.5 million homes currently sit empty and close to 1.7 million homes in the United States are in some state of foreclosure. Mortgage lenders such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, Citigroup, and Fannie Mae, have already begun demolishing some of these homes, while making minuscule donations of these “non-performing” properties to local government authorities. Both acts of demolition and donation allow banks to avoid back-taxes and the costs of up-keeping the vacant properties, while ensuring higher returns on properties in the market… for banks. They may even get at tax write-off of as much as the amount of the homes’ fair market value for making the donations.
How about fixing the problem of too many empty homes by requiring mortgage lenders to find solutions for struggling homeowners allowing them stay in their homes? How about converting the already vacant properties to housing accessible to our most vulnerable low-income families? It’s time to stop seeing homes as a commodity to be bought and sold for the profit of banks and lenders, and start seeing homes as a human right and basic human need that must be met.