South Minneapolis Homeowner and member of the Canvassing Sub-Committee of Occupy Homes
The call for an immediate moratorium (government imposed suspension of activity) on all foreclosures is not a new idea. In fact a moratorium was put in place by the Minnesota legislature to halt foreclosure proceedings in 1933 during the Great Depression. In the mid-west this movement was lead by radical farmers in the Farmers Holiday Association. But ultimately a total of 27 states would enact some form of foreclosure moratorium by the middle of 1934 for both urban and rural home owners. (Wheelock 2008)
In 1932 it became clear that “sharply falling incomes made it increasingly difficult for farmers to pay the interest and principal on their outstanding debts, but falling property values made it less likely that farmers could sell their properties for more than the outstanding balance on their mortgages. The result was a sharp increase in farm mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures.” (Wheelock 2008)
Similar to the 1930’s today many families have seen their incomes shrink while dropping property values have put their homes actual market worth well below what they still owe the banks on their mortgage. Unemployment, wage pressures and market pressures are now squeezing families across the country.
In Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin the Farmers Holiday Association, which was made up of farmer radicals played a leading role in activating the wider community and pressuring the legislature to act. According to a paper by Kim Neilsen presented to the Minnesota Historical society “In the fall of 1933, Konrad K. Solberg, Minnesota’s lieutenant governor, told frustrated Douglas County farmers, ‘If you haven’t got 50 [cents] for the [Farm Holiday] membership, steal one of your mortgaged pigs and sell it!’” (Neilsen 1988) In addition to calling on farmers to join the Farmers Holiday Association he was also telling them to committee an act of non-violent civil disobedience in stealing a mortgaged pig back from the bank.
Years of movement building accompanied by other direct action had been crucial in bringing about the situation in 1933 that ultimately resulted in the passage of the moratorium bill of that year. One popular direct-action technique that was widespread was the penny auction. “The concept was simple. Farm families gathered in large numbers at a foreclosure sale and quietly but confidently informed any prospective buyers that they were not to bid…When items came up on the auction block, only designated bidders were allowed to speak. Cars, tractors, and livestock were purchased for sums ranging from about 10 cents to 50 cents. At the end of the auction, all the goods were returned to the original owner.” Just the threat of this tactic in some cases was enough to convince the banks to renegotiate with the farm families before the date of the auction came. (Neilsen 1988)
All the while the Farmers Holiday Association and other farm member organizations were also drafting and publicly speaking about legislation to halt foreclosures all together. It was the pressure on the banks that won gains for individual families but ultimately national public pressure on the politicians that brought about a moratorium in many states. Just days before the Minnesota moratorium was passed in November of 1933 Milo Reno, the original organizer of the Farmers Holiday Association, said “We have been patient and long suffering. We have been made a political football for jingo politicians, who are controlled by the money-lords of Wall Street.” (Neilsen 1988)
Once again many Americans are now becoming aware of the stranglehold Wall Street and big banks have on our communities. We must seize this opportunity to call for a moratorium on all foreclosures while also making it difficult, if not impossible, for banks and the police to forcefully take us and our neighbors from our homes.
Homelessness HURTS. Help us prevent homelessness and fight the corrupt banks ..
The link to the 2012 foreclosure petition is on signon.org here. Please sign!
An article about how to achieve a foreclosure moratorium in your state is at: