HuffPo covers America Underwater

Huffington Post liked our America Underwater photo blog so much that they're partnering with us and New Bottom Line to promote it on their website and collect more stories from underwater homeowners.  Check out their page and slideshow!

Americans are drowning

Foreclosure Crisis: Underwater Homeowners Share Their Stories (PHOTOS)

"What does it mean to be an underwater homeowner?

"I paid $245,00 and now [my home] is worth $117,000," writes a senior citizen living in Phoenix, Ariz. "I will have to work until I am 95 to pay off my loan," writes another homeowner.

These are the stories that some Americans are sharing on a new Tumblr blog called America Underwater, which aims to chronicle the lives of people who are living in homes that have radically declined in value. These people now owe more on their mortgage than their homes are worth.

The Tumblr was launched this week by two advocacy groups: The New Bottom Line and Rebuild the Dream. Both are calling on President Obama to fire Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward DeMarco. They recently launched a Tumblr blog, America Underwater, to bring faces to the housing crisis. The site invites readers to share photos and stories of how they're being affected by their underwater homes.

As the country still struggles with the fallout from the financial crisis, increasing numbers are finding themselves in this position. Nearly a quarter of homes with a mortgage were underwater at the end of 2011.

We've teamed up with the New Bottom Line and Rebuild the Dream to solicit your stories. Please view the slideshow below, and if you're one of the 11 million Americans who are underwater, tell us."

Riverside Sheriffs Department won't evict Arturo

In the latest news on veteran Arturo de Los Santos and his family's foreclosure case, the Riverside Sheriffs Department has refused to evict the family from their home, despite Freddie Mac's persistence in taking Arturo to court for refusing to vacate.Freddie Mac refuses to take Arturo's mortgage payments and would rather spend thousands of dollars taking him to court.Read the press release below for more information:

Riverside Sheriffs Department Declines to Evict Homeowner and Family – But Mortgage Giant Freddie Mac Presses on with Arraignment

On Wednesday, Marine Art de los Santos to enter plea regarding contempt charges, fights possible arrest; Homeowner, wife, four kids ask why the bank won’t accept his money instead of pursuing expensive court proceedings

MORENO VALLEY – After weeks of sidestepping questions about why they won’t work with homeowner Art de los Santos on a loan modification and accept his money, on Wednesday, March 14, government-owned mortgage giant Freddie Mac will press on with its effort to have the Marine arrested and his family evicted from their home of ten years.

Last week, the Riverside County Sheriffs Department announced that they wouldn’t be enforcing an eviction order against the family. But rather than working with Art and thousands of other customers facing foreclosure despite their ability to make mortgage payments, Freddie Mac is spending significant time and money attempting to force the De los Santos family out of their home.

What:  Arraignment of Homeowner and Marine Art de los Santos

When: Wednesday, March 14; 8:30 a.m.

Where: Riverside County Superior Court, 4050 Main St., Riverside 92501; Department 7

For months, Art has waged a public campaign to convince Freddie Mac and JP Morgan Chase to reverse the foreclosure and issue him a loan modification, and to stop ignoring the thousands of homeowners in his situation:

•Art, a long-time factory supervisor who spent five years in the Marine Corps, purchased his home almost ten years ago and lives there with his wife and four kids

•in 2009, Art asked JP Morgan Chase for a loan modification, anticipating a drop in hours at work – and was told to miss payments in order to qualify

•after missing some payments, JP Morgan Chase and Freddie Mac granted Art a temporary modification and Art complied with all the terms of the modification

•JP Morgan Chase and Freddie Mac rejected Art for a permanent modification because his income had recovered – but, instead of allowing him to catch up, they quickly foreclosed on the home

•the two companies have consistently refused to reconsider their decision, instead releasing statement after statement that mischaracterize the sequence of events and blame Art for their own mistakes

De los Santos vows to keep fighting on behalf of his family and thousands of homeowners being ignored or improperly foreclosed on by JP Morgan Chase and/or Freddie Mac.


F(oreclose) the Banks and Occupy Our Homes: Week of Action

F(oreclose) the Banks and Occupy Our Homes are holding a week of bank-related actions to protest greed and inequality, from March 13th to the 16th. F the Banks will have a day of action on March 15th to fight Bank of America, while Occupy Our Homes will have events throughout the week at a variety of banks. Find or create an action near you! For a sneak preview, watch this video of Occupiers setting up house in a Bank of America lobby:And read this press release from Occupy Our Homes for more details on the week of action:

Occupy Our Homes Calls for National Week of Bank Protest Actions

In solidarity with families across the U.S. resisting foreclosures and evictions, the Occupy Our Homes movement is announcing that March 13th-16th will be a National Week of Action to protest the criminal foreclosure practices of the nation's largest banks.

The housing system built by Wall Street banks and for the 1% has utterly failed the 99%. The banks' criminal foreclosure practices have cost millions of Americans their homes already. Millions more homeowners are at risk of foreclosure in the coming years. And while hundreds of thousands families face homelessness, bank-owned vacant homes fall into disrepair.

Everyone deserves a home and Occupy Our Homes will be standing with housing activists nationwide in their fight for dignity and a place to call home. It's time to take action.

Along with Occupy groups and community organizations across the country, the Occupy Our Homes network will stage protests nationwide—including protests at various bank headquarters and branches across the country—in a coordinated effort to draw attention to the banks' immoral behavior.

Each day of the week will feature a target bank, anchored by different Occupy groups and their allies.

  • March 12: Occupy the Crime Scene - County Recorder's Office - Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Petaluma, Occupy Sacramento
  • March 13: Chase— Occupy Atlanta & Occupy Detroit, along with the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions, and Utility Shutoffs
  • March 14: US Bank— Occupy Minneapolis and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC)
  • March 15: Bank of America— Occupy Wall Street
  • March 16: Wells Fargo— Occupy groups across California, and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE)

"These executives have been making life hell for the average American. Meanwhile they're making record profits and have a comfy home to sleep in, said Marine veteran Bobby Hull, a Minneapolis home occupier. "It's time to fight back, and make clear to the big banks that we're not leaving."

"The biggest banks have been destroying our communities with foreclosures. We say no more," said Matt Browner Hamlin, an organizer with " The Occupy Our Homes movement is everywhere - members of the 99% are standing up in solidarity with home occupiers to demand the banks stop stealing our homes."

The original call that inspired this week of action came from Occupy Glen Iris and Occupy Atlanta to mark Chase Bank CEO Jamie Dimon's  birthday with a protest of the bank's criminal foreclosure practices. Occupy Atlanta has previously staged raucous protests at Chase bank branches and the group and its allies have helped stop a number of evictions and foreclosures, including that of an historic Atlanta church.

For more information, please visit

Ed DeMarco's rough weekend

It's been almost a month since many of you first signed our petition to fire Ed DeMarco, head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), for blocking help to millions of underwater homeowners.Over the weekend, a number of important thinkers, writers, and economists joined the ranks - everyone is calling on DeMarco to change his view on principal reduction, or let someone else call the shots.DeMarco has proven who he sides with - the 1%, Wall Street, and the mortgage agencies that caused the housing crisis. But Americans can't wait any longer for DeMarco to allow principal reduction, which has been identified as the best way to help homeowners and lift up the housing market.

It's time to fire DeMarco.

Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) joined a slew of other Democrats calling for DeMarco to leave his position. "He's acting as if he was head of two private companies called Fannie and Freddie and not taking into account the impact this has on the economy, and I think he should be more cooperative with efforts to reduce foreclosures."When asked if DeMarco should resign, Frank said, "Yes. … Since he won't be more flexible, yes."Business editor of the Huffington Post, Peter Goodman, called DeMarco's refusal to allow principal reduction "grounds for firing," naming DeMarco as, "the single largest obstacle to meaningful economic recovery... who most Americans have probably never heard of."And as we reported earlier today, another Huffington Post article says it's time to "Take a Load Off, Fannie: Principal Reduction Is Overdue." David Abromowitz of Center for American Progress says that principal reduction is not only good for avoiding a wave of "economy-crushing" foreclosures, but "because millions of underwater mortgages are controlled by the government, it's also good public policy."Abromowitz says it's time for DeMarco to reassess his stance on principal reduction, so that we can move forward and mend the biggest drag on the economy - the housing market.Meanwhile, as if that isn't enough evidence that this campaign is picking up steam, Washington Post reported that "Liberal advocates want Obama to dump FHFA’s DeMarco". The article cites Rebuild the Dream advisor Ilyse Hogue:"'He is the number one obstacle to.?.?.helping the economy recover,'according to Ilyse Hogue, from Van Jones’ Rebuild the Dream. Together with key members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and underwater homeowners, liberal advocates from Rebuild the Dream and other liberal advocacy groups delivered a petition with 85,000 signatures to the FHFA calling on President Obama to fire DeMarco."If you haven't yet signed the petition or shared with your friends and family, be sure to visit the page here

Mr. 1% comes to NYC

In New York City? Mitt "Mr. 1%" Romney is hosting a private lunch at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. You could buy a ticket for $2500... Or you can protest the inequality of the 1%. Join the funeral procession for jobs Romney killed at Bain Capital and demand that we close the Romney loophole. Read the email below for more info:Mitt Romney

Dear friends,

Your favorite tax-loophole-seeking job cremator is coming to New York City for a campaign fundraiser, and you're invited! (Well, sort of.)

Mitt "Mr. 1%" Romney will be in town on Wednesday, March 14 to host a private lunch at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel with tickets running at $2,500 a pop. We think this is a great opportunity to participate in creative direct action, so we've partnered with other advocacy groups to pull off a protest outside the hotel, with a big finish at the New York offices of Bain Capital. Can you join?

Yes! I will be there at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14 to welcome Mr. 1% to New York!

So what's in store for Mr. 1%? We'll have a funeral procession for the jobs he killed while working at Bain Capital -- he is a job cremator, after all -- and a hula-hoop demonstration to illustrate what the Romney Loophole is all about (hint: it allows him to pay a tax rate drastically lower than working families).

Will you join us, along with UnitedNY, the Strong Economy for All Coalition, Occupy Wall Street,, New York Communities for Change, and many others, to protest Mr. 1%?

Thanks, and we hope you can make it to protest Mr. 1%'s fundraiser!Caroline and the rest of the Rebuild the Dream team

Take a Load Off, Fannie: Principal Reduction Is Overdue

David Abromowitz of Huffington Post agrees - it's time for Edward DeMarco to allow principal reduction, or get out of the way. DeMarco continues to argue that principal reduction would not be in the best interest of mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But the Federal Housing Finance Agency should be looking out for the best interest of America's homeowners.Abromowitz lays out the arguments for principal reduction and calls on DeMarco to look at the facts so the FHFA can start mending the housing market:

David M. AbromowitzTake a Load Off, Fannie: Principal Reduction Is Overdue

There's a growing consensus among economists, investors, academics, and consumer advocates that more "principal reduction" -- writing off a portion of a mortgage that exceeds a home's value in exchange for a higher likelihood of repayment -- can help avoid another wave of costly and economy-crushing foreclosures. That's good for homeowners and lenders, and because millions of underwater mortgages are controlled by the government, it's also good public policy.

But the country's two biggest mortgage companies are not convinced, according to Edward DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency -- which oversees the government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"Both [Fannie and Freddie] have been reviewing principal forgiveness alternatives and both have advised me that they do not believe it is in the best interest of the companies to do so," DeMarco told Congress last week. He added that principal reduction is inconsistent with his mandate to protect taxpayers, who have invested more than $150 billion in the companies since 2008.

This stance makes FHFA the "big boulder in the path to principal reduction," according to former Obama economic advisor Jared Bernstein.

To be sure, FHFA's position may make some sense if the only goal is to protect the short-term interests of Fannie and Freddie. Principal reductions require the lender to recognize a write-down on their books today in order to save more money tomorrow. In the case of Fannie and Freddie, that may mean billions in temporary support from taxpayers -- not to mention another unflattering headline.

But more than three years into the conservatorship -- with no clear path forward for winding down Fannie and Freddie and home values still weakening -- FHFA should be thinking long-term. Here are three reasons why the agency should give its stance on principal reduction another thought.

First, analysis from FHFA itself shows that principal reduction helps the books of Fannie and Freddie. A large-scale effort to revalue underwater mortgages -- so that the loans reflect the huge drop in home values over the past 5 years -- would actually save Fannie and Freddie about $20 billion over the life of those loans compared to doing nothing, the study found.

And that was before the Obama administration announced new incentives for Fannie and Freddie to write down principal through the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP. For the first time Fannie, Freddie, and their servicers could get as much as 63 cents on every dollar written off. So those savings should be even greater today.

Second, reams of economic evidence support principal reduction as the most effective way to stave off unnecessary foreclosure. Recent research from Amherst Securities found that severely underwater loans -- where much more is owed than a house is worth -- default at a much higher rate than loans at or below the home value. This is true across all mortgage types (prime, subprime, Alt-A, etc.), even after accounting for borrower characteristics like credit scores and debt-to-income ratios, according to the report.

This should not be a surprise. Families that are hopelessly underwater often cannot see the long-term upside from making expensive monthly payments into a bad investment. On the other hand, borrowers with more equity are naturally more likely to stick it out in tough economic times by making deep cuts to savings or other areas of spending.

That's why principal reduction, which rebuilds equity by writing down what is actually owed, is such an effective foreclosure mitigation tool. Recent studies from the UNC Center for Community Capital, the New York Fed, and Santa Clara University's Sanjiv R. Das confirm that principal reductions are often the best value to lenders compared to other loan modifications -- such as capitalization or interest-rate modifications -- because they prevent more foreclosures. Indeed, even the model FHFA used in their analysis assumed that principal forgiveness avoids more re-defaults than alternative modifications.

Fewer foreclosures mean a stronger, more stable housing market, which undoubtedly benefits Fannie and Freddie in the long run.

Third, the private sector has shown that principal reduction is good business practice. About 15 percent of private loan modifications in the third quarter of 2011 involved some sort of principal reduction. And that number was even higher for modifications done on loans that banks hold on their own books.

Many private firms have worked out ways to reduce principal responsibly without creating skewed incentives for borrowers. The subprime servicer Ocwen has one particularly promising approach: a so-called "shared appreciation" program for certain underwater borrowers. In exchange for a principal write-down that restores 5-percent equity in the home, the borrower agrees to make timely payments and shares 25 percent of any future home price appreciation when they eventually sell. As of this summer -- one year after the pilot began -- Ocwen reported that its principal modifications were experiencing re-default rates of less than 3 percent, far below what's seen in typical loan modifications.

Despite this and other field-tested ways to write down mortgage debt responsibly, Fannie and Freddie refuse to embraced principal reduction as a viable foreclosure mitigation tool. And their regulator, FHFA -- with full authority to plot a different course -- has yet to urge them to do so. So instead of recognizing the losses we all have already sustained, the taxpayer-supported mortgage giants continue to put off until tomorrow the bad news of today.

It's time they rethought that position. Only then can we start mending a housing sector that remains one of the biggest drags on our economic recovery.

Ignorance is Strength

Paul Krugman wrote a great op-ed for the New York Times about the right-wing attack on higher education. Krugman argues that the deterioration of higher education has been a symptom of the 1% looking out for their own interests at the expense of America's majority. Read the op-ed here:Paul Krugman Talk

One way in which Americans have always been exceptional has been in our support for education. First we took the lead in universal primary education; then the “high school movement” made us the first nation to embrace widespread secondary education. And after World War II, public support, including the G.I. Bill and a huge expansion of public universities, helped large numbers of Americans to get college degrees.

But now one of our two major political parties has taken a hard right turn against education, or at least against education that working Americans can afford. Remarkably, this new hostility to education is shared by the social conservative and economic conservative wings of the Republican coalition, now embodied in the persons of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

And this comes at a time when American education is already in deep trouble.

About that hostility: Mr. Santorum made headlines by declaring that President Obama wants to expand college enrollment because colleges are “indoctrination mills” that destroy religious faith. But Mr. Romney’s response to a high school senior worried about college costs is arguably even more significant, because what he said points the way to actual policy choices that will further undermine American education.

Here’s what the candidate told the student: “Don’t just go to one that has the highest price. Go to one that has a little lower price where you can get a good education. And, hopefully, you’ll find that. And don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.”

Wow. So much for America’s tradition of providing student aid. And Mr. Romney’s remarks were even more callous and destructive than you may be aware, given what’s been happening lately to American higher education.

For the past couple of generations, choosing a less expensive school has generally meant going to a public university rather than a private university. But these days, public higher education is very much under siege, facing even harsher budget cuts than the rest of the public sector. Adjusted for inflation, state support for higher education has fallen 12 percent over the past five years, even as the number of students has continued to rise; in California, support is down by 20 percent.

One result has been soaring fees. Inflation-adjusted tuition at public four-year colleges has risen by more than 70 percent over the past decade. So good luck on finding that college “that has a little lower price.”

Another result is that cash-strapped educational institutions have been cutting back in areas that are expensive to teach — which also happen to be precisely the areas the economy needs. For example, public colleges in a number of states, including Florida and Texas, have eliminated entire departments in engineering and computer science.

The damage these changes will inflict — both to our nation’s economic prospects and to the fading American dream of equal opportunity — should be obvious. So why are Republicans so eager to trash higher education?

It’s not hard to see what’s driving Mr. Santorum’s wing of the party. His specific claim that college attendance undermines faith is, it turns out, false. But he’s right to feel that our higher education system isn’t friendly ground for current conservative ideology. And it’s not just liberal-arts professors: among scientists, self-identified Democrats outnumber self-identified Republicans nine to one.

I guess Mr. Santorum would see this as evidence of a liberal conspiracy. Others might suggest that scientists find it hard to support a party in which denial of climate change has become a political litmus test, and denial of the theory of evolution is well on its way to similar status.

But what about people like Mr. Romney? Don’t they have a stake in America’s future economic success, which is endangered by the crusade against education? Maybe not as much as you think.

After all, over the past 30 years, there has been a stunning disconnect between huge income gains at the top and the struggles of ordinary workers. You can make the case that the self-interest of America’s elite is best served by making sure that this disconnect continues, which means keeping taxes on high incomes low at all costs, never mind the consequences in terms of poor infrastructure and an undertrained work force.

And if underfunding public education leaves many children of the less affluent shut out from upward mobility, well, did you really believe that stuff about creating equality of opportunity?

So whenever you hear Republicans say that they are the party of traditional values, bear in mind that they have actually made a radical break with America’s tradition of valuing education. And they have made this break because they believe that what you don’t know can’t hurt them.

Mitt tells students government won't pay for college

This week a student asked Mitt Romney how he would help make college more affordable. Romney gave a brutal response: “It would be popular for me to stand up and say I’m going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that." He told the student to go look around for cheap tuition.Romney's response is indicative of conservative politicians' disregard of the importance of higher education in creating a more equal economy. Check out this article about the incident from the New Yorker:Mitt Romney town hall in Dayton, Ohio

Earlier this week, a pretty interesting and telling exchange took place at a Mitt Romney town hall meeting. A student asked Romney what he would do to make college more affordable for students who struggle to pay for it. Romney’s reply was jarring:

It would be popular for me to stand up and say I’m going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that,” he said, to sustained applause from the crowd at a high-tech metals assembly factory here. “Don’t just go to one that has the highest price. Go to one that has a little lower price where you can get a good education. And hopefully you’ll find that. And don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.”

It’s a brutal response.  One reason, of course, is that college is a form of public investment. We have a shared stake in a more educated population, which ultimately produces higher living standards for all. Treating college affordability as a question of simple personal responsibility is an act of collective economic suicide.

But Romney’s answer, and the enthusiastic reception it triggered, also reveals something important about the Republican coalition. Here were Romney, and his supporters, treating a struggling prospective college student with almost gleeful hostility, like a bum looking for a handout:

Romney does not take this position toward all government services. Like the Republicans in Congress, he maintains that Medicare must be maintained untouched for all Americans 55 years old and up – he constantly attacks Obama for being “the only president in modern history to cut Medicare benefits for seniors.” But he proposes to eviscerate the rest of the domestic budget, even more than the enormous cuts in the House budget, slashing tuition assistance, poverty programs, and the like on an unprecedented scale.

In my magazine piece, I including a quote describing some of the sentiments underlying the right-wing belief that programs for the elderly must be maintained while transfers to the young and poor are slashed:

Theda Skocpol, a Harvard sociologist, conducted a detailed study of tea-party activists and discovered that they saw themselves beset by parasitic Democrats. “Along with illegal immigrants,” she wrote, “low-income Americans and young people loom large as illegitimate consumers of public benefits and services.”

That is the context in which to understand the Republican position, which has increasingly coalesced around the defense of public services for its core constituency at the expense of others. As Sen. Lamar Alexander put it during the health care debate, “If you find savings by cutting waste, fraud and abuse in Grandma’s Medicare, spend those savings on Grandma.” Romney may not come from the tea party wing, but he has accommodated himself to its policy demands, and his support within the primary race is concentrated among older Republicans.

The glue holding together the contemporary Republican agenda – the fierce defense of entitlement spending on the elderly, the equally fierce opposition to welfare spending on the young, the backlash against illegal immigration, the nationalist foreign policy, the cultural traditionalism – is ethnocentrism. Republicans are defending the shared cultural prerogatives of a certain group of people. That is why I am arguing that the shifting demographic tides will require the GOP to undertake a major reorientation in order to maintain its competitiveness. There’s simply no way to transpose their sense of what is and what is not a legitimate government function onto a progressively younger, browner electorate. (Latino voters overwhelmingly support Obama’s health care reform.) Their conception of us versus them can work for a while – it worked quite well with the anomalously old, white 2010 off-year electorate – but the them is rapidly outnumbering the us.

American Dream 2.0: Can Worker-Owned Coops End Poverty?

This month, Rebuild the Dream is taking a look at a few of the amazing ways people in our communities are coming together to create local economies that empower the 99%.We call these initiatives the American Dream 2.0 because they are providing a totally revamped way to look at our values as a nation as well as our role in creating the world we want to live in.In part 2 of the American Dream 2.0 series, we take a closer look at worker-owned cooperatives -- businesses owned and operated by the workers. While there are several models for ownership and management of worker cooperatives, the essential question is whether they can prove to be a viable solution to joblessness and economic disparity.It’s not so far-fetched. In fact, it’s already happened.The Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in the Basque region of Spain did just that in the 50s. After the Spanish Civil War, Father Jose Maria Arizmendiarriata organized impoverished Basque peasants into a coop that manufactured paraffin stoves. Mondragon has since grown to include 120 workplaces, a bank, a chain of supermarkets and a university – all cooperatively owned and run by employees.

The MCC is now considered the most successful example of worker-owned enterprise in the world and is mentoring projects like the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry in Cleveland, Ohio. The laundry co-op is 100%-owned by 50 workers who, after seven years on the job, will have each built an ownership stake of as much as $65,000.

The Evergreen Laundry Cooperative and similar projects are all part of a growing effort to transform the quality of life for low- and moderate-income communities across the country.It’s the reason Omar Freilla returned to his old neighborhood in the South Bronx in the 90s. He wanted to create a South Bronx that is greener, healthier and more economically empowered than the South Bronx he grew up in. To do that, he established Green Worker Cooperatives – an organization that provides training and support to residents starting worker-owned green businesses.The South Bronx, in addition to being one of New York’s working class communities, has also become a dumping ground for all types of dirty industry and infrastructure -- coal plants, landfills and hazardous waste treatment facilities. Because it is located along a heavily trafficked highway, asthma rates in the South Bronx are twelve times the national average. Moreover, access to healthy food, quality education and affordable health care is limited.The Green Worker Cooperatives model says that if you establish more worker-owned green businesses in areas like the South Bronx, then you can build a strong local economy and break the cycle of poverty by keeping community money within the community. And by establishing worker-owned health co-ops or businesses that do things like turning trash into valuable compost for resale, you create wealth and wellness that doesn’t depend on resources from outside of the community.But if worker-owned cooperatives can create jobs and pave the way to a truly democratic economy, why aren’t there more of them?According to Quentin Sankofa of the Mandela Food Cooperative it comes down to money.“It is not an easy thing for low income people of color to start a business, let alone a cooperative.” Sankofa says, “No banks or credit unions wanted to lend us money.” West Oakland Youth Standing Empowered (WYSE) choose plants for their parks project. © 2008 Mandela MarketPlaceSankofa is one of seven members of the Mandela Food Cooperative which is the only grocery store in West Oakland, CA. Because of the lack of access to fresh food and produce, West Oakland is classified as an urban food desert. But thanks to funding and support from the non-profit Mandela Marketplace, the co-op is now providing fresh fruit and vegetables which are delivered daily by youth to small grocery and liquor stores in the area.But are grants from foundations and non-profits a truly sustainable resource for people seeking funding? They can help some, but can they provide enough capital to transform communities which have suffered socially and economically for centuries?While we can’t provide all the answers in a blog, we can say that there are some groups that are finding some pretty innovative ways to raise money for their cooperatives without bank loans. The Alchemy Co-op in Melrose, MA raised over $10,000 to start their organic food co-op through online crowd-funding.Have an interest in starting your own worker-owned coop? Here are a few resources we've put together to help you get started:Crowd-Sourced – online crowd-sourced fundraising site which uses an all-or-nothing model to raise money for projects -- if you set your fundraising goal at $10,000 and raise $9,999, you don’t get any of – online crowd-sourced fundraising site where you pay a fee but keep all the money you raiseFundingWorker Cooperative Federal Credit Union – a credit union in its start-up phase whose sole purpose is financing worker cooperatives.Worker Ownership Fund – national organization to increase access to funding for start-up and existing worker-owned cooperativesTrainingGreen Worker Cooperatives’ Coop Academy -- an intensive 16-week training and support program that helps teams of aspiring entrepreneurs develop worker-owned green businesses.Do It Yourself ResourcesConverting your Business to a CoopSteps to Starting a Worker CoopWorker Cooperative ToolboxAmerican Worker Coops Startup Guides

"Underwater Americans Take to the Blogosphere"

The San Diego Union Tribune covered Rebuild the Dream's America Underwater blog for underwater homeowners. Check it out!


UT News covered Rebuild's America Underwater photo blog. UNDERWATER AMERICANS TAKE TO THE BLOGOSPHERE

Homeowners share their pain, and their numbers, on advocacy groups' site to make point to regulator.

Would you share with online strangers a photo of yourself with how underwater you are on your mortgage?

Three advocacy groups hope you will in order to prove a point to Edward DeMarco, the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

DeMarco has frustrated state and federal leaders on his stance against writing down the principal balances of Fannie and Freddie borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth. Among those leaders is California Attorney Kamala Harris.

The grass-roots groups, who have called for the firing of DeMarco, have created a Tumblr blog called “America Underwater.” The blog, which officially launched Tuesday at, features photos of homeowners who report that they have negative equity.

The entries show a photo of the borrower holding a placard with a negative figure, indicating how underwater they are. There’s also a spot under the image where the homeowners can disclose as much or as little as they want.

An entry posted Tuesday shows a woman holding a sign that says “-$53,000” and the message:

“I am still $53K underwater AFTER a loan modification. My loan servicer won’t even consider writing down/wiping out my 2nd mortgage balance of $17K, which is just common sense!!”

The blog states the idea is from community groups the New Bottom Line, Rebuild the Dream and National People’s Action.

Here’s a description of the project:

“11 million homeowners are underwater. This Tumblr blog is for homeowners throughout the country to share how their dreams are drowning, to show that none of us is alone in our struggles, and to show how even one underwater mortgage is more than America can afford.”

What do you think? Will you post your story on “American Underwater”?