September 8, 2010; Source: Washington Examiner | It is already two years too late, but the Obama Administration has finally figured out that for-profit speculators and flippers are acquiring foreclosed properties that they can then milk and put back on the market, outmaneuvering and outbidding nonprofits that would restore properties and sell to families to stabilize subprime-ravaged neighborhoods.
So, last week, the Obama Administration announced that it had gotten the Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and other big banks to agree to give nonprofits 48 hours to examine foreclosed bank-owned properties before the process opened up to private bidders. This program called “First Look”, is great news for the nonprofit sector, which has been left with the dregs of foreclosure after the speculators grab what they want.
But conservatives might not agree. An editorial in the Washington Examiner takes two approaches to slam the First Look approach. First, it contends that private developers should be encouraged “to take as many foreclosed homes off the glutted market as possible,” which First Look, according to the Examiner, will not do. First Look will do the exact opposite, the editorial insists.
Why nonprofits, if given all of two days to look at properties, will stymie the process is unclear. The other approach is the guilt-by-association attack. The editorial in the Examiner contends that First Look “also invites corruption by groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.” Of course, ACORN Housing was actually a very legitimate housing producer until the collapse of the network and not associated with charges of corruption, and ACORN doesn’t exist in a position to participate in First Look anyway.
So the Examiner uses its ACORN slur to attack the work of NeighborWorks America, actually the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation doing business as NeighborWorks, a Congressionally chartered nonprofit community development organization with a largely impeccable track record, including yeoman work on anti-foreclosure counseling toward the end of the Bush Administration.
How did the editorial attack NeighborWorks? Did it find financial corruption? Mismanagement? Inadequate program performance? No, instead it dredged up the fact that the CEO of NeighborWorks was arrested in a public protest (the editorial calls it a “public welfare riot”) 41 years ago—in 1969—in Springfield, Mass. Yes, that’s the sum total of the complaint against NeighborWorks, against its 240-member agency network, against the 3,000 community development groups it assists, against the First Look program.—Rick Cohen