These 27 Democrats Voted to Side with Predatory Billionaires over Low-Income Homeowners

While Senate Republicans worked on finalizing their Christmas gift to the 1 percent, House Republicans took their own steps to reward predatory billionaires.

The House today took up the deceptively titled Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act, which, contrary to its title, does nothing to preserve access to manufactured housing (“mobile homes”).

So what does the bill actually do?

First, it changes the definition of a “mortgage originator” so that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule on marketing and documenting consumer financial transactions wouldn’t apply to mobile home retailers offering credit to borrowers.

And second, it would increase the thresholds for specific rates and fees that trigger Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA) protections. This would have exempted more than half of mobile home loans in 2013, according to Consumer Bureau data.

In short, it removes vital protections for low-income homeowners to encourage predatory practices by the rich. And one of the biggest culprits is the Warren Buffett, who, contrary to what some Democratic elites like to say, is not your billionaire friend. He’s just as predatory as his peers.

Maxine Waters (CA-43) and some of her Democratic colleagues in the House Financial Services Committee showed why:

Additionally, a years-long joint investigation by The Seattle Times and Center for Public Integrity, which focused on Clayton Homes, the largest manufactured homebuilder in the United States, found that Clayton Homes, which is controlled by multi-billionaire Warren Buffet, reaps significant financial profits from unsuspecting consumers — from producing the housing, to selling the housing, to originating loans that take advantage of vulnerable consumers that leave them with virtually no way to refinance.\3\ Specifically, the article noted that, ``Clayton systematically pursues unwitting minority homebuyers and baits them into costly subprime loans, many of which are doomed to fail,’’ charges minority borrowers substantially higher rates, on average, than their white counterparts, and ``typically charges black people who make over $75,000 a year slightly more than white people who make only $35,000.’’\4\

Maxine Waters hammered this point further in a passionate floor speech: “This bill makes it easier for financial titans like billionaire Warren Buffett to earn even more profits, at the expense of the most vulnerable consumers in this country.”

Buffett-owned Clayton Homes has a monopolistic hold over the mobile home market:

About 70 percent of mortgages for manufactured homes are already higher-priced mortgage loans , compared with only 3 percent of mortgages for site-built homes. That’s due, at least in part, to the lack of competition within the manufactured housing industry. Companies affiliated with a single large corporation, Clayton Homes, were responsible for 38 percent of manufactured housing loans in 2016 and for more than 70 percent of loans made to African American buyers in 2014. That leaves companies with little need to lower their rates to attract consumers — and that would be especially true if there was a steady stream of referrals from affiliated retail shops.

Clayton Homes is also the largest producer of manufactured homes and sells these homes through 1,600 retailers. That gives the company thousands of opportunities to solicit customers for loans offered by its mortgage lending affiliates, 21st Mortgage and Vanderbilt Mortgage, which make far more loans each year than any other lenders. They also charge consumers higher interest rates than much of their competition.

The bill passed 256 to 163. Every Republican except Walter Jones (NC-03), the lone one to ever seem interested in financial regulations, voted for it. Unfortunately, so did 27 Democrats.

Among the 27 are 1 gubernatorial candidate (Polis), 2 Senate candidates (Rosen and Sinema), 1 declared-way-too-early presidential candidate (Delaney), and 1 Congressman whose press team likes planting stories about him as a presidential candidate (Moulton):

Sanford Bishop (GA-02)

Salud Carbajal (CA-24)

Lou Correa (CA-46)

Jim Costa (CA-16)

Henry Cuellar (TX-28)

Pete DeFazio (OR-04)

John Delaney (MD-06)

Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15)

Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05)

Ron Kind (WI-03)

Greg Meeks (NY-05)

Seth Moulton (MA-06)

Stephanie Murphy (FL-07)

Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01)

Jimmy Panetta (CA-20)

Scott Peters (CA-52)

Collin Peterson (MN-07)

Jared Polis (CO-02)

Kathleen Rice (NY-04)

Jacky Rosen (NV-03)

Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02)

Brad Schneider (IL-10)

David Scott (GA-13)

Terri Sewell (AL-07)

Brad Sherman (CA-30)

Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)

Tom Suozzi (NY-03)

Only 22 Democrats had voted for it in 2015, when the House last passed the bill.

Four Democrats who voted for it are no longer in office: Brad Ashford (who lost reelection), John Carney (now governor of Delaware), Gwen Graham (running for governor in Florida), and Ann Kirpatrick (ran for Senate in AZ and now running for the district adjacent to her old one). Two Democrats who had voted for it in 2015 voted against it today: Jim Cooper (TN-05) and Lacy Clay (MO-01).

However, one Democrat who voted NO in 2015 voted YES today: Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02). And he was joined by 10 freshmen in voting YES: Carbajal, Correa, Gonzalez, Gottheimer, Murphy, O’Halleran (who replaced Kirkpatrick), Panetta, Rosen, Schneider, and Suozzi.

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Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.