There is a stench wafting through Worcester, a smelly brew of legalism, self-pity and irresponsibility. It corrodes self-reliance, makes a mockery of law, and tramples upon contracts. Unchecked, it may infiltrate our legal system, infect the brains of left-leaning judges, and spawn rulings injurious to common sense.
This stench is the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team (WAFT).
WAFT members appear to mean well. They want homeowners to know their rights. They want to prevent illegal evictions. They want government to assist those who are about to lose their homes.
But WAFT members — and the leftists, liberals and progressives who think as they do — don’t stop there. When confronted with the economic and legal realities that not all foreclosures can or should be stopped, they look for loopholes and technicalities. They blame banks, mortgage companies and lawmakers. They even stage blockades.
More from Chris Sinacola, the anti-anti-foreclosure activist
The anti-foreclosure left would have you believe that mortgage officials want to punish the poor, and relish foreclosing on properties. The reality is that most banks and mortgage companies would prefer to keep owners in their homes, and resort to foreclosure only when those owners are far behind on their payments and there is no better option.
The anti-foreclosure left pushes for more state and federal programs to help beleaguered homeowners, even though efforts such as the Home Affordable Modification Program have been ineffective.
The leftists continue to favor local ordinances to require mediation between owners and mortgage holders, although a 2014 ruling struck down such ordinances.
Last week’s Sina-cism:
In search of parking, and a little clarity, in Worcester
The anti-foreclosure left says that fees upon mortgage holders for the maintenance of properties after foreclosure are a social good, and make foreclosure less likely in the first place. But when the mortgage companies pass those fees on to homeowners before any foreclosure begins, the fees are a social ill, making foreclosure more likely.
Banks and mortgage companies, in the eyes of the anti-foreclosure left, are to blame when a Federal Reserve Bank of Boston study shows that merely 3 percent of homeowners in trouble got loan modifications, while many who could work out of financial trouble on their own were not offered modifications.
But why should mortgage holders help those able to help themselves? Isn’t self-reliance a good thing? And didn’t the left cry foul when the financial industry spent years offering too much credit to Americans, thus triggering the Great Recession?
The political left — one must include most of the media in their ranks — has repeated so many myths about the Great Recession that it’s difficult to perceive reality. We are told that millions of homeowners were deceived into signing mortgages they couldn’t afford. That banks and mortgage companies conspired to force these loans upon minorities, the poor, and the elderly. That when people couldn’t keep up, the vultures snatched the properties back, pocketing billions in fees.
To be sure, there were, are, and ever shall be deceptive and unscrupulous individuals and companies in the mortgage industry. But most financial institutions are responsible and play by the rules. Would-be homeowners must be equally responsible when signing a mortgage, the terms and conditions of which should always be fully read and understood before pen hits paper.
It is true that economic changes, mostly natural and cyclical, have left millions of Americans holding property worth less than they paid for it, and that some of them are unable or unwilling to keep current with their mortgages.
But allegations of widespread abuse are largely myths. The current wave of foreclosure filings is mostly the result of the expiration of delays that were imposed by lawmakers at the behest of activists. If those delays have helped some regain their footing and keep their homes, fine. But foreclosure remains a legal and sometimes necessary step, and is a far more important tool for the proper allocation of housing resources than loan modifications — not to mention blockades of dubious legality.
The anti-foreclosure left is very good at gaining attention from reporters — complaisant and complacent by turns — who are eager to tell the stories of the victims of Big Finance. But they and the reporters who serve them are remarkably tight-lipped about detailing the lives of those victims — including their employment, financial choices and payment histories.
Reality is a hard thing, but it takes a good deal of self-deception, wishful thinking and carelessness to sign a mortgage when you lack sufficient income, somehow missed the part about the rate going steeply higher a year from now, or simply have no ability — and perhaps no intentions — to ever pay the money back.