A Dream Denied: The Fight Against the Mass Eviction of Families in Chicago and Jacksonville, USA

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Lewis, Nemoy
Housing , Homeownership , Race , Neoliberalism , Racial Capitalism , Financial Literacy , Financialization , Institutional Racism
The foreclosure crisis that followed the depression 2007–08 created a number distressed communities in two of the hardest hit cities across the United States, Chicago, and Jacksonville. Homeownership has long been the primary means for households to accumulate wealth within American society. Owning a home also assumes tremendous cultural weight; is often associated with achieving the American dream. Becoming a homeowner is said to allow first-time buyers to embrace the values of freedom and individualism; however, since 2007, a disproportionate number of racialized people have been evicted from their homes at an unprecedented rate because they were unable to continue making payments on their mortgages. Subprime loans were introduced to the lending market as a lucrative business strategy to expand lending activities to those who would otherwise be denied access to credit. Instead, they allowed financial institutions to exploit and prey upon the historical misfortunes of African Americans and other racialized groups. This study uncovers some key findings that indicate how organizations working in different geographical regions navigate through the foreclosure crisis in order to keep at-risk homeowners inside their homes. Furthermore, this study highlights the importance of community organizations and their influence in shaping the foreclosures for racialized people, low-income families, and economically disadvantaged communities. In keeping with the traditions of anti-racist theory, I situate race at the forefront of my analysis of the policies and programs introduced to stem the rise of foreclosures. By doing so, I develop an analysis of the cyclical nature of institutional racism as it operates in the U.S. housing market. More importantly, I situate the foreclosure crisis as the most recent installment in the long history of racial inequality in the American housing market. I draw on theoretical perspectives on neoliberalism and financialization to identify the products and processes that precipitated the collapse of the U.S. housing market. I use secondary data and a small sample of semi-structured interviews with homeowners, housing counselors, and lawyers, and the research reveals a number of factors influencing the way some African-American households experience foreclosures. The research also pinpoints some of the best ways to keep distressed homeowners inside their homes. Above all, this study provides racialized homeowners with a voice, dispelling popular narratives that portray them as irresponsible borrowers who bought more than they could afford. Instead, everyday Americans were victims of a discriminatory financial system that preyed upon the historical disadvantages of African Americans in their efforts to attain equal access to the housing market.
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