Monday, April 19, 2010
Mpls Mirror Takes Uninformed Potshots at JACC
Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman
When I first read a recent post on the Mpls Mirror blog, I was faced with something of a dilemma. The Mirror's articles show up so far down Google searches that it's clear they don't have the same readership as some other blogs. So by calling attention to the post, I might drive up the site views and Google rankings of the blog. But standing by and saying nothing kind of goes against my nature as well.
Ultimately, I decided to dedicate a JNS post (or more, but I think one will do) because the last time the Mpls Mirror tried to wade into such waters, the comment function mysteriously disappeared after a significant backlash. Consider the JNS blog an insurance policy that substantive commentary on all sides of the issue will be published.
The first mistake I noted was...
...Yzaguirre's lack of distinction between "equity skimming" and "equity stripping." This is a technicality, but since she goes into great detail on other intricate financial details, there is an expectation to get this one right.
I did organizing as a staff person and member of Minnesota ACORN, and helped bring some of the first cases of equity stripping to the attention of then-Attorney General Mike Hatch and then-Commerce Secretary Jim Bernstein. Thanks to their hard work, legislation was passed to outlaw the following practice:
"Equity Stripping Scams. This scam works in a variety of ways, but typically starts when someone promises the home owner that he/she will solve all their problems and keep them in their home. The scammer may promise loan money that never appears, or have the home owner sign a lot of complicated papers. The scam artist may convince the homeowner to sign the property over to him/her, claiming that only he/she can get a loan to save the home. In reality, the loan does not exist, and the homeowner becomes a renter in their own home, until they are eventually forced out by the inevitable foreclosure. In most cases, the homeowner receives little or nothing for their home equity, which has, in essence, been stolen by the scam artist. Under Minnesota law, homeowners must be paid at least 82 percent of the fair market value of their former homes (minus certain permitted costs or expenses) if they are not able to stay in their homes following a foreclosure."
(taken from the Attorney General Lori Swanson's website)
Second, Zillow? Are you kidding me? This site is famously unreliable. For one thing, it includes foreclosure sales in its calculations of value when in reality such sales rarely happen at true market value. For another, the loan to purchase (and I think, build) the property was taken out in 2007. The Mpls Mirror appears to use Zillow estimates (Can we ban the use of "Zestimates" please?) from 2010. In case readers aren't aware, mortgage markets and property values have hit some slight turbulence since '07.
And here's the REAL scary part. According to her calculations, guess what Jordan is paying in rent right now? MARKET RATE. The way this is framed reminds me of an old Letterman top ten list of things that sound creepy when said by John Malkovich.
While I'm at it, there is a minor point in need of correction: the Mpls Mirror post states that Hawthorne council promoted the NoMi Home Tour. That is not the case. I showed up at a few spots in case I could help out in my capacity as Housing Director, but the NoMi Home Tour received no official promotion from the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council.
There's nothing inherently wrong with publishing a bit of information before you have the whole story. But there appears to be almost nothing worthwhile here. About the only thing of substance in the entire article is the zoning issue, and I'm sure once JACC gets a staff person that will be addressed in short order.
So here's the deal JNS readers: you're now faced with the same dilemma. Publish comments on the Mpls Mirror and drive up the profile of that blog or stay away entirely. But now you may publish comments here as well. If there is another barrage of comments that don't jive with the Mpls Mirror's agenda, we'll see how long the comment function stays up.