The Fight for Home tries to put post-Katrina New Orleans in the larger context of what’s been going on nationally. Perhaps no joke was more biting than the city’s flooded-out residents discovering that, thanks to the mortgage crisis, millions of American homes are now considered “under water.”
Since the publication of the book a month ago, the situation in New Orleans continues to change, as does what’s happening nationally.
Most of the people in The Fight for Home remained in the city for Hurricane Isaac; there was no flooding and no forced evacuation. Pastor Mel’s parents went to Atlanta and returned safely; his bride, Miss Clara, came and went, too. But Mel and the men and women of Bethel Colony South stayed. Half the roof came off one of their buildings, and Mel’s home lost some shingles. Repairs have begun. Malik helped neighbors board up for the storm, then rode it out in Algiers. And Holy Cross saw high winds, but most folks stayed. During the five days they went without power, Carolyn watched a burglar try to climb in a next door window and get arrested in the process. A lot of refrigerated food went bad; some trees fell.
If there was a lesson learned from the Katrina experience, it seems to have been: stay home; keep fighting. [See my op-ed piece for Bloomberg View http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-29/hurricane-tests-do-it-yourself-city-of-new-orleans.html]
Meanwhile, a recent Huffington Post article outlines our continuing national situation:
“Only one in four homeowners who applied for government-sponsored loan modifications got help. Less than ten percent of the $50 billion promised to homeowners as part of the bailout has been disbursed. And the federal agency overseeing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has refused to consider a basic demand of everyone from housing activists to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner -- reducing the principal on underwater mortgages. Meanwhile, nearly one in three borrowers owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.” [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anjali-kamat/housing-crisis_b_1859434.html]
If the result is, as this article states, that homeownership has become an American fantasy, what are our alternatives? What kind of a national recovery is possible if it’s not driven by home construction and sales? What’s a more stable economic future look like? How do people find decent housing, affordable health care, sustainable and non-destructive jobs?
I hope the stories New Orleanians relate in my book offer a way to consider these questions from a bunch of different angles. And in the process, highlight how the fight for home is larger than one city; it’s about a nation struggling to rise from underwater.