The Center for Investigative Reporting’s Aaron Glantz is headed to Detroit for a discussion about his new book, “HOMEWRECKERS: How a Gang of Wall Street Kingpins, Hedge Fund Magnates, Crooked Banks, and Vulture Capitalists Suckered Millions Out of Their Homes and Demolished the American Dream.”
Sarah Alvarez, Executive Editor of Outlier Media, will moderate the talk — which is co-sponsored by Detour Detroit. Join us at the Detroit Public Library’s Main Branch on Thursday, November 21, 2019 at 6 p.m.
Glantz, whose reporting has sparked more than a dozen congressional hearings will discuss the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis, and the banking kings who made out like bandits.
The event will be followed by a book signing. Copies of “Homewreckers” will be available for purchase.
We spoke to Alvarez about why Outlier is bringing Glantz to Detroit and why this book matters so much.
Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception the general public has about the fallout from the Great Recession?
Alvarez: The biggest misconception is probably that the fallout from the Great Recession, and the impact it had on housing, is over. Residents are still dealing with dynamics caused by the housing market crash, when the value of homes went down so dramatically across the board, and stayed down. That thousands of homes are still sold in the tax auction every year; that investors still can and do buy and sell Detroit homes in bulk; and that it is still very difficult to get a mortgage in Detroit — those are impacts of the Great Recession that are still felt day-to-day.
Detroit went from a place where most residents owned their homes to a city where most residents rent, that is a fundamental shift. We thought bringing Aaron Glantz here would be valuable because he is looking at other places around the country where these dynamics are also playing out and can help us understand what might be coming next.
Q: Much of your journalism at Outlier Media has centered around the Wayne County tax auction and the cycle of foreclosure it promotes. Can you explain what ties connect the foreclosure auction to Glantz’s book and the financial products national actors are creating to control more of the housing market?
The reason we report about the auction and tax foreclosure so often is because it is incredibly disruptive for thousands of Detroiters every year, particularly renters. Of course I understand the city and county have a legitimate interest in getting the taxes owed to them so they can pay for the things residents need and want. Even so, after years of reporting on the auction what I see, again and again, is a system investors and speculators know how to game and a county apparatus comfortable with that behavior. Glantz is focusing on similar dynamics across the country; the combination of people willing to get rich off of housing instability and policies and practices that make these businesses incredibly lucrative.
Q: Many readers who have followed the impact of the Great Recession on homeowners in Metro Detroit might already believe Glantz’s theory that private real estate interests have taken advantage of deregulation and the current financial system to grow their wealth at the expense of America’s neighborhoods. For those who already agree with Glantz’s central premise, why should they come see him speak?
Full disclosure, Glantz is a friend of mine, but he is also a reporter I deeply respected before we ever met. I learned a lot reading his book, and I report on housing every day. He tells the story of people who amassed incredible wealth from the housing crash, a small circle of people who were already incredibly wealthy to begin with, and how they did it. Detroit is unique, and it’s easy to think that what is going on in Detroit, across a lot of different areas, could only happen here.
The reason I really enjoyed Glantz’s book is because it helped me understand how we are fit into a national story; how what is happening here is similar, and different. He’s also a great writer and I think he really understands that housing is not a business story; if you lost your house or you can’t afford a stable and decent housing situation-that is incredibly personal and emotional. I think Glantz gets the balance right in the book and when he talks about his work.
Q: Remind us of the work Outlier does to inform and protect Detroit residents.
Outlier is a Detroit-based service journalism organization. We’ve set up a service for Detroiters to be able to check to see if their home is at risk of a lot of the dynamics we were just talking about-if it is at risk of auction, if it has been inspected, who really owns it. It’s free and available over text message, people can text the word “Detroit” to 73224 to check it out. If our system doesn’t have the info you need we’re always on the other end to follow up with you and get you the info you need. We also do watchdog and investigative work on housing and utilities that gets published locally and nationally. We’re working on a few big stories right now and could always use support. We’re actually in the middle of a fundraising campaign and donations are matched right now. If anybody wants to support our work we of course deeply appreciate it. There is a donate button right on our website at www.outliermedia.org where you can also see all the work we’ve done over the years.