It Started With A Tweet: Rebuilders Tell The Department of Justice to Investigate Bankers

It started with a tweet back in June.

At the close of the Edwards Trial, our CEO Natalie Foster tweeted that the Department of Justice should move on to bankers who crashed our economy now that Edwards is done. That struck a chord. A couple Rebuilders asked, "Why doesn’t the Justice Department look into wrongdoing by the banks that crashed our economy?"Rebuild the Dream launched a petition where over 70,000 Rebuilders responded and asked the Department of Justice to investigate the bankers who played a role in crashing our economy in 2008.Yesterday, we published the ad in the National Journal where DC insiders could see it. Check it out.


The Call To Fire DeMarco Renews

Big news this week.The Federal Housing Finance Agency released a report on their study on the effects of principal reduction and Edward DeMarco announced he would block efforts to reset home loans to fair market value.Here's what we said on the issue:

"More than 85,000 Rebuild the Dream members have signed a petition calling on  President Obama to fire Acting Director DeMarco, and thousands more have made phone calls to the White House. We value the administration's continued pressure on DeMarco to embrace principal reductions -- including Treasury's repeated offers to provide assistance and incentives -- but the time for more forceful action has come. This community will continue demanding that our leaders provide real hope to homeowners, including principal reductions that will keep families in their homes and expanded refinancing options that will save millions of homeowners hundreds each month."- Ian Kim, Managing Director of Rebuild the Dream
Want to catch up on the news surrounding Ed DeMarco? We have a miniature roundup ready for you:


Over 115,000 Rebuilders Call To Fire Ed DeMarco

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Wow. After Ed DeMarco announced that he would block any plan helping millions of homeowners through principle reduction, Rebuilders stood up. Over 115,000 have signed our petition calling on President Obama to fire Ed DeMarco and over 25,000 have signed up in the last 24 hours!Check out the email by our CEO, Natalie Foster, and join the call: Fire DeMarco!

Rebuilder,Remember Ed DeMarco, the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which regulates the government mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? He's back in the news.DeMarco is the Bush appointee who has been dragging his heels and blocking Fannie and Freddie from engaging in targeted principal reductions (resetting home loans to fair market value) for struggling, underwater homeowners on the grounds that it would cost the taxpayers too much.Today, two things happened. First, FHFA produced a study that said principal reductions would actually save taxpayers more than a billion dollars. And then DeMarco announced that he still wouldn't allow any principal reductions!1Tell President Obama: If DeMarco won't change his mind, he needs to change jobs. Fire him now!Almost 90,000 of you have already called for DeMarco to be fired. And President Obama is listening -- his administration has pushed DeMarco to drop his opposition and offered the Treasury Department's help to Fannie and Freddie in making it all work. Today, Secretary Geithner even released a letter challenging DeMarco's logic and calling on him to change his mind.2It's important to know we've got allies in the White House. But while homeowners are still struggling to hang on to the homes where they've built lives and lasting memories... it's just not enough. DeMarco needs to go.DeMarco is now officially out of arguments. Principal reductions are the most direct way of helping people whose home values plummeted after the banks crashed the economy, but are left owing those same banks thousands more than their homes are worth. They would save taxpayers money by preventing losses from default and foreclosure. The program is already designed to weed out people who don't really need help -- in fact, the bigger problem is that it's not broad enough!And most importantly, this would keep families from losing their homes! This is nothing more than callous, cold-hearted opposition to something that would help millions of real people instead of banks.Add your name now.This fight over homeowners is the epicenter of the huge debate going on in our nation today. At question is whether our government works for big banks, or for the middle class... and we need our leaders to pick the right side.Let's go,Natalie and the rest of the Rebuild the Dream TeamSources:1) "Regulator Rebuffs Obama on Plan to Ease Housing Debt," NY Times - 7/31.2) "Letter from Secretary Geithner to Acting FHFA Director DeMarco," U.S. Treasury Department - 7/31.


Hundreds of Homeowners Call Congress Demanding A Vote For Homeowner Relief

Yesterday, Rebuilders from across the country spoke up for homeowners and demanded a vote to force banks to allow responsible homeowners to refinance their mortgages at today’s record-low interest rates.Hundreds of calls have been reported so far! If you haven’t already please take 60 seconds  to call your senator and demand they pass this commonsense bill before the August recess.Here's yesterday's email from Ian in case you missed it:

Rebuilder,This week Rebuilders in swing states are delivering tens of thousands of your signatures to local Senate offices, demanding that Congress force banks to allow responsible homeowners to refinance their mortgages at today’s record-low interest rates.Homeowners are in serious trouble, while banks rake in record profits and Congress sits on its hands. Our efforts have definitely got their attention, but right now, we’re hearing conflicting reports about Congress's willingness to pass this legislation. So we don’t know for sure what they plan to do.If we can force a vote, it will help make the housing crisis an election year issue. So we need to figure out -- fast -- where the Senate stands, because we only have one week before Congress goes on recess. After that the only thing they will care about is the November election.Can you take 60 seconds to call your senators to find out their position on homeowner relief legislation?Just click here to go to our call page. We have all the information you need, including:
  • Your senators' phone numbers
  • A quick script for what questions to ask (the whole call should take under a minute)
  • A form where you can report back what you found out
We're sending this message to enough people to get about 5 phone calls per senate office, which should be just enough to get the information we need. And along the way, we'll also send a clear signal that everyday voters really care about this solution. That could be enough to force a vote.This is a commonsense proposal that will keep folks in their homes. There’s no reason Congress shouldn’t pass this -- but we all know how Washington works.If we can just force a vote, however, then the millions of 'Underwater Voters' will know who to hold accountable in November for Washington's inaction.Click here to go to our call page and let us know where your Senators stand on homeowner relief legislation.Speak up today and let them know you're paying attention, that you vote, and that you'll remember what they did (or didn't do) while people were losing their homes.Thanks,Ian and the Rebuild the Dream team


Rebuilders Deliver Petitions For Homeowner Relief

Rebuilders are delivering over 30,000 signatures to Senate offices in Ohio, Maine, Florida and Massachusetts as part of the Hope for Homeowners campaign.Why? To demand Congress force banks to let responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages at today's low interest rates. The package of home mortgage relief legislation  (S. 3085, S. 2909, S. 3407) will pave the way for responsible homeowners to reduce their monthly bills and stay in their homes.Patricia in Massachusetts and Faye in Maine were two of the first to deliver their petitions. Faye is a retired grandmother who originally bought her currently underwater home to be closer to her grandchildren. After being laid off from her job, her little house isn't becoming the nice retirement home she planed. Patricia is a single mom and an underwater homeowner who has lived in her home for eight years with excellent credit and current mortgage payments. Both these rebuilders would benefit from the lower payments from interest rate reduction on their homes through the home mortgage relief bills. 

Faye in Maine: "Delivering the petitions felt like an honor. The responsibility was daunting. Senator Snowe's office was most gracious, and even helpful.Area Representative for York County, Peter Morin was most accommodating, but the delivery of the petitions to Senator Collins' office into the hands of her office representative met with a more non-committal response.I am grateful to have been able to provide some support and " voice" for the under- represented, and challenged folks of Maine whose housing values have been so crushed. We all deserve better." 

Patricia in Massachusetts: "Like millions of other Americans, my home is underwater and at risk of foreclosure.If I had the ability to refinance my mortgage I could save hundreds of dollars a month -- and my son and I could stay in our home. But even though I haven’t missed a payment in six years, I’m unable to get any relief.However, a few months ago I received an email from Rebuild the Dream asking me to share my housing story. Last week I delivered thousands of signatures in support of Hope for Homeowners legislation to Senator Scott Brown along with a letter sharing my story and explaining how the bills would help me and my family.When I went to Bank of America to discuss my loan and see if I was eligible to refinance, they told me they no longer held my loan and directed me to Fannie Mae -- who has ignored my repeated attempts to reach them. But when I delivered thousands of signatures to Senator Scott Brown’s office, it got his attention. His staff followed up immediately offering to help and to strongly consider supporting the legislation currently before Congress.Too often voices like mine get ignored while the big banks always find an open door. That’s why the work Rebuild the Dream is doing is so important.I know I’m not the only one like this. Lots of people are suffering, and the banks aren’t helping, and we have to do something to help people out, or else they’re going to lose their homes."


Student Debt Affecting More People Than Ever

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The state of student debt is scary.The total amount of student loan debt keeps growing, as does the average student loan balance for student loan debtors. Americans now owe more in student debt than they do in auto loans or credit cards.Despite new rules to clarify the discharge process for some disabled borrowers, student loans have the potential to follow borrowers for the rest of their lives. They are one of the rare types of loans that cannot be automatically discharged in bankruptcy.  And not all student debtors are young people. A growing number of middle-aged Americans are struggling with college debt, either from their own college days or their children's. People in their 40s owe, on average, $6,000 more in student loan debt than people under 30.It's not all bad news. Some states are taking advantage of the exploding student debt problem. If you've been looking to move to Niagara Falls or Kansas, there is a solution for you. Several cities and states are paying off student loan debt to attract qualified workers.What ideas to you have to help with our student debt problem? Share them in the comments below.


What is a house?

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A house is not just a piece of property -- it's a space for families and friends to make memories, share struggle and triumph and happiness, and feel safe and secure.For millions of Americans, that's all slipping away, in the most heartbreaking ways.Dozens of Rebuilders have shared their stories of loss and hardship on our America Underwater Tumblr blog. With the news dominated by the latest polls and politics instead of what's really happening to America, we couldn't think of a better time to get this out there.Check out the America Underwater photo blog and share with your friends and family -- Tweet it, share on Facebook, email it. Lift up the voices of other Rebuilders.A few months ago, in partnership with The New Bottom Line, we asked Rebuilders across America whose homes were underwater to submit a photo of themselves standing in front of their home with a piece of paper denoting how much their home was underwater -- meaning they owed more on their home than it was worth. Dozens of homeowners sent in their stories and photos.You can't read these stories and stay on the fence about helping homeowners. If you share this blog and even one friend reads it, you've created real change.We are quickly approaching a vote to pass legislation that would allow homeowners who are current on their payments to refinance their homes. Reading these stories reminds us of what is really at stake here. Places where memories are made. Places for families and friends to gather. Homes.Chances are, you know someone whose home is underwater. It is painful, frustrating, confusing, and isolating. When someone shares their personal story, they start feeling like they have the power to change things. When people feel empowered, they are moved to action. When people are moved to action, it is almost impossible to stop them.Please read the America Underwater Tumblr photo blog and share if you feel moved.


"Why My Job Is To Watch Dreams Die"

The experience of losing a home is heartbreaking and one of the most difficult days in the lives of millions.This man experiences that day over and over again as part of his job. He works at a real estate office selling foreclosed homes and is there for the painful moment when a homeowner hands over the keys to their home.

And so I listen. I feign dispassion but I'm not fooling anybody. Somehow they can tell that I care and thank me even as they admit that it isn't my fault, that it isn't my responsibility to listen. I've stood inside another's dream for an hour as they spoke, not really to be heard but to say goodbye - to leave the ghosts behind.
The anonymous realtor writes about the process of foreclosure and the almost unbelievable stories that the homeowners share. As anyone can tell you, a home is more than justa a house. It's a powerful place filled with memories.
Sometimes the kids are there, maybe waiting in the car, maybe not. I see the marks on the wall showing how the kids grew over the years. I see the anguished poetry scribbled on the wall by stoned teenagers and the occasional hole punched in the wall. One woman handed me the key to her reinforced bedroom door - during the divorce her now ex-husband was still living in the house and she had to barricade herself in at night. Another said "right there is where I found my son - he couldn't handle losing the house".
You can read the entire story on Reddit.


How Young People With Debt Spoke Out For The Don't Double Campaign

Young people with personal student debt stories led students to victory in the fight to keep rates from doubling. From Florida to Nevada, they shared their stories and spoke to press -- generating media coverage at key moments that helped influence key swing votes on the Stafford loan bill.One member spoke with local newspapers in her community about how student debt is stopping preventing her from finishing her education and following her dreams.

Alexis Frymoyer, a St. Petersburg resident and 2010 college graduate who has $40,000 in student loan debt, described during the conference call how her debt has paralyzed not only her financial future but that of her family.She is unable to pursue the remainder of education she needs because she cannot afford to take on more student loan debt. And she is unable to qualify for a mortgage beyond $40,000, which she said means she is forced to continue paying rental rates that are higher than a mortgage payment would be.Frymoyer worked four part-time jobs last year "just to make ends meet," she said. Her student loans will take an estimated 25 years to be paid off.
Read additional stories Rebuild the Dream community members shared with the press below.Florida: Students, grads daunted by debt, despite degree, The News-PressFlorida: Stafford Loan drama scares students, Bradenton HeraldNevada: Student Loans Run Deeper Than College, CBS Local KXNT NewsRadioIllinois: Loan Moan, Alton Daily News/WBGZ RadioIllinois: Buddy, can you spare a dime for college?, The Northwest Herald


Can we share our way to a better economy?

There are a million ways to share: Co-op living can make rent cheaper. Car sharing can make a trip home affordable.There’s even a way to share your way beyond student loans. Take it from Eric Meltzer, who learned enough Mandarin -- in five months, with no formal teacher -- to pass his freshman semester at a university in Beijing. His secret (beyond hard work) is to find alternatives, like bartering for a tutor through Skillshare, and prove you don’t need "permission to learn something."Meltzer’s essay is just one essay in the illuminating book Share or Die: Voices of the Get Lost Generation in the Age of Crisis. Share or Die is put out by our friends at Shareable, the online magazine which is out to prove that sharing is fun, green, and good for the economy.This book shows that sharing isn’t just good for the economy -- it’s vital. With millions of people hurting right now, solutions based in sharing are the quickest tools available to rebuild from the ground up. Renting a room (or a couch) through Airbnb, for example, could help raise the money to cover rent, or to start a business. Through the community-supported agriculture model, local farmers can cater to low-income communities, like Harlem-based Corbin Hill Farm does.We call these "American Dream 2.0" solutions. They make it possible for people to start meeting their needs together, as communities, instead of through the traditional middleman of multi-national corporations.There are a dozen more inspiring examples in Share or Die, and thousands more at Shareable. You can get even share in the book release: enter the Share or Die Storytelling contest. Win up to $1,000 to use at the sharing service of your choice (Relay Rides to the beach, anyone?) or to donate to the nonprofit organization of your choice.

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It’s pretty cool — just write, record, video, or otherwise present the story of a time when you shared, and how it worked out. Get more info and enter the contest with Shareable.