Georgia’s high number of bank failures and the effect on commercial and residential real estate markets brought the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to the state capitol.
The subcomittee is chaired by Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich. Members, including Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, listened to testimony from the banking industry, as well as consumer advocates. Witnesses for the industry, such as Joe Brannen of the Georgia Bankers Association, pushed for looser regulations as a way to revive the state's battered lending sector. Meanwhile, advocates for consumers, like HomeOwnership Center manager Tia McCoy, pushed for greater Federal oversight and an extensive education campaign to aid those in danger of losing their homes.
Foreclosures are "hurting families, marriages and lives," McCoy says.
Georgia leads the country in bank failures—a majority being small community banks. Westmoreland says that little banks are getting hit unfairly, with a widespread ripple effect.
Yet, there's little indication at the moment that Congress will act anytime soon to stem more foreclosures. Kucinich acknowledged that with Congress having passed foreclosure legislation earlier this year, it seems unlikely more aid will come from the federal government by the end of 2009.
Kucinich says the estimates he's seen shows up to 12 million people are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure. "We need to put the premium on keeping those people in their homes, and do everything they can to make that happen. People have to be aware, there's political implications in this. That sooner or later, people are going to look around and ask [Congress], 'Hey, you took care of Wall. St. Why didn't you take care of Main St?' We [the Democratic Party] may be losing a lot of voters," Kucinich told GPB.