Editor’s note: The National Council of La Raza, the National Urban League, and National CAPACD hosted an event,“The Attorneys General Settlement and Communities of Color: Exploring the Challenge and Promise of Principle Reduction,” Wednesday at New York University’s Constance Milstein Center in Washington, D.C. The following is a reflection on the event, the National Mortgage Settlement, and its impact on communities of color.
Judging by the audience’s response to the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s event, the implementation of the National Mortgage Settlement leaves a lot to be desired. The audience, in large part consisting of housing advocates from such diverse and reputable institutions as the Center for Responsible Lending and the National Urban League, enthusiastically engaged the speaker, whom many see as the public face of the settlement’s slow and unsatisfactory implementation process. The keynote speaker, Joseph Smith, the court-appointed monitor at the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight and the individual charged with fulfilling the expansive promises of the settlement, was met with tough questions from advocates whose daily work is the securing of fair mortgages for financially troubled families in their communities. Despite his defensive position, he took the criticisms generously, because, he explained, the very purpose of these events is not only to allow community stakeholders and housing advocates to hear about the progress of the settlement, but also to allow the monitor to hear from concerned community members about problems of implementation in the field. To this extent, the event was a success.