The American Dream

March 12, 2009

In January 2009, KETC/Channel 9 gave students from St. Louis University Flip cameras to interview their friends and peers about their visions of the American Dream.  The videos are fantastic, and what I like most is the optimism of the students.  They realize that times are tough right now and that the economy isn’t doing well, but instead of viewing this as a roadblock, many students think the economy is just an obstacle–something that, with hard work, can be overcome.

To check out the videos, visit the American Dream section of our website where we’ve featured a few of the videos, including the Living St. Louis segment by producer Patrick Murphy.  To see all of the videos, check out our YouTube channel.

St. Louis Beacon: How could so many of us have been so wrong?

January 29, 2009

Originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon

Written by: Mary Delach Leonard

Posted 3:13 p.m. Wed., Jan. 28 – In the grand scheme of the U.S. mortgage meltdown, Stacy Haynes of St. Louis is just one in 2.3 million

That’s the number of U.S. property owners who received foreclosure notices of some type in 2008, according to, a Website that has become the trusted source of statistics on American Dreams gone bad.

But even as she picks herself up, dusts herself off and begins to remake her life, Haynes has a question: “How could so many of us be so wrong?”

She seems willing to accept her share of responsibility but believes there is plenty more blame to go around.

“Are we responsible for what happened on Wall Street?” Haynes said. “Are we responsible for what happened to the banks? Are we responsible for the housing market falling through the bottom? Is that the fault of people like me? Am I responsible for decisions that were made in the White House?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Community Cinema Series: I.O.U.S.A

November 12, 2008
November 12, 2008

Please join us for the St. Louis Community Cinema Series at the Missouri History Museum on Tuesday, November 18 for a screening of the film I.O.U.S.A. Take a look at the flyer below. I will be posting the trailer momentarily.


Community Feedback

October 20, 2008
October 20, 2008

I want to use this post as a way of soliciting some feedback, from you, about the direction of Facing the Morgage Crisis. While we have not created new content in awhile the work is still continuing here at KETC. The project team still gathers at 8:30 a.m. every morning to discuss how we move the work forward. We are still actively working with our community partners and we are still going out into the community making presentations. Recently, in our morning meetings we have been talking about how we can create content that will connect what has been going on in the financial system to St. Louis.  In order to do this we are revisiting the focus of the project.

The current focus of Facing the Mortgage Crisis is to connect residents of the St. Louis community to trusted foreclosure prevention resources AND raise awareness about the impact of the mortgage crisis on the St. Louis region. Our current internal discussions are focused on expanding the work given how much the world has changed in the last few months. We are looking to create new content that serves a refined focus as we continue to connect people to resources. One of the many questions we are exploring is whether it’s time to expand to services beyond foreclosure prevention? What other types of social services are available for those struggling to make their house payments? These are some of the issues that we are exploring as we move forward.

One of the most important questions as we move forward is how do we continue to connect people to resources and expand the scope of the work? In expanding the scope we want to make sure that we are staying connected to what is going on in St. Louis. In order to answer these questions we are seeking your feedback. Please feel free to leave comments or send e-mails to

New From the St. Louis Beacon – Anatomy of a foreclosure (part 1)

September 24, 2008
September 24, 2008

Anatomy of a foreclosure: For Sale – A house full of memories (Part 1)     
By Mary Delach Leonard, St. Louis Beacon staff    

Part 1 of 3
The collapse of some of the nation’s oldest financial institutions started on Main Street America with hundreds and thousands of homeowners such as 56-year-old Maureen McKenzie of Kirkwood who in May lost to foreclosure the small ranch house that had been in her family since it was built after World War II. How could this happen? The answer is … complicated. Over the next three days,
the Beacon will unravel the story of how Maureen McKenzie of Kirkwood, Mo., lost her 900 square feet of the American Dream.

Two months after she lost her 900-square-foot, three-bedroom ranch to foreclosure, Maureen McKenzie of Kirkwood swallowed her nerves and stood before a live studio audience at KETC-Channel 9 to address a panel of housing counselors:

“I’m Maureen. And I’m from Kirkwood. And I recently lost my house to foreclosure. And my house is still sitting empty, and I am wondering if there’s any help available to try and get my house back.”

McKenzie, 56, was on a self-imposed mission as she spoke those words during the July 15 segment of “Facing The Mortgage Crisis,” which was broadcast live throughout the St. Louis area.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: Why Should I Care?

September 18, 2008
September 18, 2008


It’s natural to want to ignore shrill Wall Street news about vaguely familiar-sounding mega firms – that’s the kind of thing that only big investors and stock market junkies care about, right? Well, almost. You can tune out as long as you don’t pay taxes, have a 401(k) or pension, hope to ever get a loan… You get the idea. It turns out that the government takeover affects just about everyone.


Who Are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?


Fannie Mae, or the Federal National Mortgage Association, was created by the New Deal in order to encourage home ownership. Freddie Mac was created in 1970 to provide competition. They both are government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), which means that private shareholders own and run them for profit, but the federal government backs their debt. (more about their history and creation at


Why are they important?


Together, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provide financing for about two-thirds of all U.S. mortgages. They buy mortgages from lending institutions and then either resell them as mortgage-backed securities or keep them as part of an investment portfolio. While Fannie and Freddie have long played an important role in the housing market, the recent mortgage crisis has made them even more critical; as investors lost confidence in large investment banks they turned to Fannie and Freddie, whose government backing made them seem like a safer bet.


What went wrong?


Well, a lot of things. The This American Life segment, “Giant Pool of Money,” ( )does a great job of explaining it. The gist is that starting somewhere around the early 2000s, lending practices began to shift toward less accountability, until finally many people taking out a mortgage no longer had to show any proof that they had the assets or salary to be able to pay their mortgages. Fannie and Freddie were the biggest buyers of these bundles of questionable mortgages. As long as the housing market continued to improve, Fannie and Freddie were OK – people were finding ways to pay their mortgages, through low initial rates in creative loan packages, or by taking out equity loans backed up by their homes’ rising value. When the housing bubble burst, the whole edifice began to crumble. The change was felt first by the individual homeowners whose monthly payment adjusted beyond their ability to pay, or whose equity evaporated as their home lost value. Soon Fannie, Freddie, and the investment banks that also bought these mortgages began to see the missed payments in their bottom line. As it became clear that many mortgages would never be paid in full and that the securities they backed had lost much of their value, investors panicked. This is where the government stepped in.


How does a government takeover work?


The purpose of the takeover was to ensure the continued availability of credit for mortgages and to quell investors’ fears that the companies lacked the capital to handle continued defaults on debt. The takeover involved ousting both companies’ CEOs and boards of directors, a massive infusion of cash, and a stipulation that the Treasury Department (read: taxpayers) will be the first to recoup its investment when the companies recover. It is unclear exactly how much money this will cost, but estimates run as high as $100 billion.


How does all this affect you and I?


One of the most direct effects people will feel is that many of us, whether we know it or not, are invested in Fannie and Freddie. Many mutual funds hold some form of mortgage-backed security, affecting investment portfolios, 401(k)s and pensions.


At some point, taxpayers are likely to feel the burden of paying for the rescue, though it is unclear how much that will cost. So far, the government has left this expenditure off the books.


In the time since the Fannie and Freddie takeover, it has become clear that the mortgage crisis is turning into a broader credit crisis. This means that the period relatively free access to credit that the world has enjoyed in the past decade or so may be coming to a close as investors who got burned in the mortgage crisis look for only very safe bets to invest in.


The upside is that mortgage rates have dropped since the takeover, as the housing market has weakened. Economist Mark Zandi with Moody’s predicts that 30-year mortgage rates could go as low as 5.5%. It is a buyer’s market, especially a first time buyer. But if this crisis has taught us anything, it is that buying a home is a major investment. It is essential to educate yourself on the potential pitfalls of buying a house. Pre-purchase counseling is available free of charge, and Facing the Mortgage Crisis can help connect you to the people who provide it.


Want to learn more about Fannie and Freddie? Links to two helpful stories from NPR:


Fannie, Freddie, and Why You Should Care

The Fannie and Freddie Bailout in 10 Easy Links



Below is a short video with advice for first-time homebuyers


Video – Facing the Mortgage Crisis, July 22: Part I

July 24, 2008
July 24, 2008

On July 22, KETC’s Ruth Ezell hosted the second of a two-part series entitled, Facing the Mortgage Crisis. The show covers the important topics regarding foreclosure that affect not just St. Louis, but communities nationwide. Neighborhoods with foreclosed homes attract criminals and experience a higher rate of vandalism and crime. Neighborhood stabilization is something that entire communities should join together and work towards.

Panelists include: Stephen Acree, Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance; Pamela Tucker Coaxum, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.; Chris Krehmeyer, Beyond Housing; Karen Wallensak, Catholic Charities.


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