Elections

Obama’s early Chicago rise brought African-Americans foreclosures, bankruptcies

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama wants his 2012 re-election campaign to focus on Gov. Mitt Romney’s private-sector record, but his own private-sector history shows that he promoted and profited from the nation’s disastrous real-estate bubble.

One striking example comes from the president’s 1995 housing-discrimination class action lawsuit: It provided him with legal fees, greased his political donations and boosted his role in Chicago politics.

While he made personal gains, his lead African-American client, Selma Buycks-Roberson, declared bankruptcy in 2001 — and again in 2008 as she received a home foreclosure notice, according to unpublicized federal and city records obtained by The Daily Caller.

Buycks-Roberson is still likely underwater on her mortgage, owing more to her home lender than the property is worth. Her house has dropped in value by 30 percent since 2010. Its 2011 assessed value for tax purposes was $97,520, well below her 2006 mortgage of $112,400. Meanwhile, the online real estate database Zillow estimates that home is worth just $69,400 today.

Buycks-Roberson’s story is not an anomaly. It can be found repeatedly throughout Obama’s Chicago. (RELATED: Full coverage of President Obama’s roots in Chicago politics)

By 2012, the average home equity in Chicago’s African-American neighborhoods had shriveled to $6,800, according to a March report from the Woodstock Institute, a liberal Chicago housing advocacy group. The average equity in homes in the city’s white neighborhoods is $108,000.

Fully 44 percent of homes in Chicago are underwater, compared to a national average of 31 percent, according to a Zillow-generated map.

The zip code located five blocks south of Obama’s house at 5046 S. Greenwood Avenue has an underwater-mortgage rate of 56 percent, slightly above Detroit’s famously depressed 55 percent rate. Zillow’s map shows that the wealthier neighborhood just four blocks north of Obama’s home has an even more stunning rate of underwater mortgages — 72 percent – one percentage point above that of worst-in-the-nation Las Vegas.

In Buycks-Roberson’s inland neighborhood, 57 percent of homes are underwater.

Reporters have aggressively sought more information from Romney about his business record, but there is no sign that a single reporter has ever asked Obama about his role in Chicago’s housing disaster.

The closest Obama has ever come to admitting his role in the scandal came in a September 2007 speech to a Wall Street audience.

“Subprime lending started off as a good idea: helping Americans buy homes who couldn’t previously afford to,” he said. (RELATED: Daily Caller coverage of home mortgages and foreclosures)

But “as certain lenders and brokers began to see how much money could be made,” he said, “they began to lower their standards. … Most everyone knew that some of these deals were just too good to be true, but all that money flowing in made it tempting to look the other way and ignore the unscrupulous practice of some bad actors.”

“Turning a blind eye to the cronyism in our midst can put us all in jeopardy … and we cannot accept that in the United States of America.”