Since the real estate bubble burst, conditions for a national fight against foreclosures and evictions have seemed ideal. “Too big to fail” banks have refused to offer homeowners struggling with high mortgage payments any meaningful relief, despite receiving billions of dollars in public bailouts. More than one in five home mortgages in the country are “underwater” —with the mortgage greater than the market value of the home—resulting in about $700 billion in negative equity. Overall, more than 4 million homes were lost due to foreclosure between 2006 and 2011. In response, community organizations in cities throughout the country ramped up their work to keep families in their homes through local direct action.
Yet even though all of these elements were in place, no broad-scale movement to address the foreclosure crisis had captured the public spotlight.
That changed with the dramatic emergence of the Occupy movement this past fall. The movement provided an opportunity for a broader, coordinated approach to the foreclosure problem. Occupy set its sights firmly on abuses by the banking system and pointed to foreclosures as a main grievance. This winter, a national call to “Occupy Our Homes” and join in anti-foreclosure and anti-eviction efforts became a popular proposal for one of the movement’s next steps.
In recent months, Occupy Our Homes has given community groups that have organized around housing issues for years a chance to link with a unified, national effort and to share knowledge gained from local fights. The Occupy movement, in turn, has benefited from joining forces with anti-foreclosure and anti-eviction organizers. While Occupiers’ arguments about inequality and corporate greed may sometimes seem abstract, the foreclosure issue has allowed activists to make their complaints about the U.S. economy more concrete. It gives the Occupy movement an ...