ACORN takes on predatory lending

BALTIMORE – Over 50 ACORN members from Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Prince George’s County went to the State Capitol in Annapolis on Feb. 20 for a Feb. 22 hearing of the State House of Delegates.

Two bills, H-649 and S-499, named by ACORN the “Loan Shark Protections and Immunity Acts,” are currently pending before the Maryland State Legislature. These bills would prevent localities from passing laws against predatory lending.

If the bills are passed, only the State Legislature would be allowed to regulate lending practices.

According to ACORN, all three sponsors have accepted funds from special interests that would stand to benefit from these bills, such as Bank of America and CitiGroup.

At the hearings, Rose Taylor of East Baltimore said, “Predatory lending is welfare for the rich and devastation for the poor. Why do we vote for those who support predatory lenders and are supported financially by predatory lenders?”

The three principal sponsors of these bills, which would override any local legislation to protect minorities, the poor and the elderly, who are the main victims of predatory lending, are Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Delegate John F. Wood, Jr. and State Senator Thomas Bromwell.

“My neighborhood of Park Heights used to be a beautiful place. Now it is overrun by problems,” Unell Dawson said. “Predatory lenders have caused foreclosures all throughout the neighborhood. Families are put out every week and more vacant houses came into the area.”

Dawson described the domino effect these foreclosures have on the neighborhoods. “Every vacant house attracts drugs, trash and rats. There are no supermarkets left. The city closed down our library and our two elementary schools. What have we got left? We are fighting for our community and this bill is trying to take our right to do so.”

The conditions people described are not just a Baltimore problem. Minorities and the poor are facing these same problems around the country. In Philadelphia, a strong law restricting predatory lending was overturned by the Pennsylvania State Legislature. Similar laws to protect the working-class poor, elderly and minorities have been struck down in Ohio and California.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org