The Housing Chronicles Blog: Union for construction workers going after homebuilders

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Union for construction workers going after homebuilders

L.A. Land blogger Annette Haddad has a post regarding a picket of KBHome's headquarters in Westwood today by the Laborer's International Union of North America. So why where they picketing? Because they're angry that the jobs lost by their 500,000 members are largely the result of homebuilders pushing unaffordable loans during the height of the housing boom, leading to its resulting bust:

The union, whose members were among the first hit by the recessionary effects of the housing downturn, protested builders' practices outside KB Home's Westwood headquarters today. On hand were several homeowners living in a KB development in Buckeye, Ariz., who said they are underwater -- owing more on their mortgages than their homes are currently worth -- and are facing foreclosure as their monthly payments ratchet higher and prices slide.

The LIUNA has produced a report in conjunction with a new group called The Alliance for Homebuyer Justice -- which you can find here in .pdf format -- which uses homeowners in Arizona as an example of predatory lending between 2004 and 2006, with loans expected to rest through 2001 and unleashing yet another wave of defaults and foreclosures.

So what does LIUNA want? Under the "What Needs to be Done" section of the report:

HUD should completely repeal the 1983 amendments to RESPA that allowed builders and other businesses to make referrals to affiliated businesses (I also wrote about this for my freelance article on builder incentives for the L.A. Times last month);

Bank of America, which acquired Countrywide, should discontinue the lending relationships that Countrywide had with the builders' mortgage operations;

Congress should pass the Emergency Home Ownership and Mortgage Equity Protection Act, allowing bankruptcy judges to modify harmful mortgages (such as by reducing the principal to the actual value of the home or changing an ARM to a fixed rate);

Rather than merely paying lip service to preventing foreclosures, as Countrywide did, Bank of America must start actually doing it (i.e., loan modifications).

Of course LIUNA also has its own agenda, to which it openly admits at the end of the report, including the right to organize unions, being paid a living wage, better training for workers, open access for homebuyers to affordable mortgages from independent sources and home prices that are targeted to what the community can afford.

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