Foreclosures are Dayton’s Political Scandal

Dayton Daily News - July 18, 2005


Dayton Daily News

The Dayton area is represented by two powerful state lawmakers, House Speaker Jon Husted and Sen. Jeff Jacobson, who’s No. 2 in the Senate. One day they’ll leave office, and be asked what they did for their community.

Given the home mortgage foreclosure rate in Montgomery County – which is among the highest in the nation – you’d think predatory lending would be somewhere on their radar. It has not been.

Losing one’s home under any circumstances is a devastating, long-lasting personal and financial crisis. But it’s especially so when abusive lending practices are to blame. Victims of these high-cost loans typically are older, poorer and less educated. They almost never recover because they are permanently stripped of the little bit of wealth they’ve
been able to accumulate. Most don’t get a second chance.

Sen. Jacobson and Speaker Husted know that stubbornly high foreclosure rates in Montgomery County and many other parts of Ohio have risen to more than twice the national average. (For data click here)

And they know the numbers are so compelling that they can’t be dismissed as isolated cases of people failing to manage their money. In fact, foreclosures have become a middle-class phenomenon, affecting the stability of this entire community.

Last week, the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, a consumer advocacy group in Dayton, directed public attention to a local foreclosure case. It involves an $84,500 mortgage loan.

According to the advocates, the borrower signed the papers after he was admitted to the psychiatric unit of Miami Valley Hospital. The loan carried an interest rate of more than 12 percent and the borrower was sold a life insurance policy that cost $6,750 and makes no economic sense. The broker took a commission of $6,400.

Consumers have certain responsibilities to not be taken in, but the state regulates mortgage brokers and what they can sell precisely because communities have an interest in making sure that vulnerable people aren’t ripped off.

How often do abusive mortgage lending practices contribute to foreclosures in Ohio? No one knows. Why don’t we know? Because Gov. Bob Taft and state lawmakers aren’t interested in finding out much less taking any meaningful steps to protect consumers.

Sen. Jacobson was a primary architect of Ohio’s law designed to protect lenders with toothless, virtually meaningless state regulation. Speaker Husted has shown little interest in the problem or the gaps in Ohio’s rules.

Meanwhile, the foreclosures keep rolling. For two years now, Montgomery County has led the nation in mortgage foreclosure filings per capita.

Critics say Ohio’s Republican-dominated state government is built on the demand of “pay to play,” meaning campaign contributions drive the laws and policies that are adopted. With financial services and mortgage lending, the system is more
aptly described as “pay to ignore.”

Politicians from both political parties, including Sen. Jacobson and Speaker Husted, accept contributions from the lending industry, then turn their backs on Ohioans losing homes in record numbers. That’s a scandal, and the Dayton region is an epicenter of the trend.

Speaker Husted and Sen. Jacobson should not be allowed to keep turning their heads away from what’s happening right here in their hometown.

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