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UNC director says data supports Occupy Our Homes dismay

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The director of a University of North Carolina center said mortgage finance research supports the frustrations shown by the Occupy Our Homes movement. The movement plans a "national day of action" for Tuesday to "stop and reverse foreclosures," according to the movement's Occupy Our Homes website. The site listed events in at least 20 cities that include people refusing to leave foreclosed homes and disrupting foreclosure actions. Roberto Quercia, director of the university's Center for Community Capital, said he saw a chance to provide background to movement, though he declined to say whether he supports it. In a letter on the center's website, Quercia wrote the foreclosure crisis "has created two Americas: one prosperous and hopeful, the other hopeless and debt-burdened." "We did feel that much of the frustrations and stuff we were hearing was backed by analysis and data that we've done," Quercia said in an interview. Much of that, Quercia said, comes in the center's research on the disproportionate impact on minorities. He wrote in the letter that one-fourth of all black and Hispanic families are delinquent on mortgages or lost homes to foreclosure, double the rate for white borrowers. While academics commonly present data supporting the notion that banks actively sought out minorities for terrible mortgage products, the argument has yet to gain significant traction in the nation's courtrooms. A Maryland court threw out one such case in Baltimore, for example. The issue of 'reverse redlining' remains unsettled for the time being. Matt Browner-Hamlin, an organizer with Occupy Our Homes, said they launched the website about two weeks ago. He said the actions have a chance to "make a difference in people's lives" in a concrete way and that Tuesday is likely a "launching moment." "The 99% are stepping up and are going to reclaim their homes," Browner-Hamlin said. "It's clear that the system built by the Wall Street banks isn't working for Americans." Quercia also said any plans to hike the down payment required for a qualified residential mortgage would likely prolong the crisis, as it would restrict access to credit and limit any housing market comeback. Instead, Quercia said that risks are more manageable when loans are properly underwritten, serviced appropriately and backed by a well-functioning secondary market. "It is not complicated. It never has been," Quercia wrote in the letter. "Is that too much to ask?" Write to Andrew Scoggin. Follow him on Twitter @ascoggin.

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