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Chicago hosts Mortgage Bankers Association, protests bring spotlight on housing

If the 5,000 plus demonstrators that marched to the Mortgage Bankers Assocation (MBA) annual meeting in Chicago on Monday are any indication, the city has had enough of the MBA.

Chicago has been ground zero for the national mortgage crisis in many ways, and critics say that a welcome like the one received by the bankers isn’t surprising in an area where 1/3rd of the homes have underwater mortgages.

Take Back Chicago, organized by a coalition of labor unions and community groups and joined by Occupy Chicago, is just the latest show of public anger at the financial system in the Windy City — and in particular at its handling of the housing crisis.

“The government bailed the banks out on our backs, but they haven’t bailed us out,” said Thurlester Ibrahim, a member the Anti-Eviction Campaign, a community group in Chicago. “We’re losing our homes.”

In August 2011, the Chicago area saw a dramatic increase in home foreclosures – notices of mortgage default, which is the first step in foreclosure, were 6,239 in seven Chicago-area counties, according to RealtyTrac.

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, the Mortgage Bankers Association acknowledged that they share responsibility for the financial crisis that has devastated communities around the country, and that it has cause their industry a “trust deficit.”

Groups on the state and federal level have tried to remedy this mistrust – most recently, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan opened an investigation into ‘mortgage rescue companies’ in Chicagoland alleged to have used attorneys to collect fees to help customers and then not delivering, cheating homeowners out of nearly $375,000.

Madigan also opened an investigation into allegations of mass robo-signing in Illinois – a practice in which companies signed thousands of foreclosure documents[ without verifying their accuracy. ]( - http://www.suntimes.com/business/5594750-420/madigan-further-investigates-robosigning.html)

Yet some demonstrators say that in a state with an official unemployment rate at 9.9 percent, almost 1 percent higher than the national average, these moves are only a Band-Aid.

“We must target additional revenue for investment in public services and critical infrastructure that will create jobs and stimulate private investment in job creation,” said Curtis Smith, President of Lakeview Action Coalition, calling for a more long-term solution. “Serious living wage job creation is the fastest way to fix the economy – America is not broke, but our economy is broken.”

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