Frustrated Homeowners: “Don’t Foreclose on My Dream”

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OAKLAND, Calif.—Dozens of homeowners, activists, and leaders gathered at the Alameda County Superior Courthouse steps Thursday, calling on policymakers to act to halt foreclosures. They braved the wind and rain, chanting, “Foreclosure, three-closure, two-closure, none, we won’t stop until justice is done.” One woman carried a sign with an image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that read, “Don’t Foreclose on My Dream.”

Organizers said the protest was held ahead of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, underscoring the significance of the American dream and homeownership rights.

“Dr. King spoke of economic justice and that includes not losing your home en mass,” Preeti Vissa, community reinvestment program manager at the Berkeley-based Greenlining Institute,  which organized the event.

According to recent research from the Greenlining Institute, 2.5 million homeowners nationally, have lost their home since 2007. The group estimates that the number could balloon to 13 million in the next four years, if no legislation is passed.

Ethnic communities are bearing the brunt of the foreclosure crisis. Eight percent of blacks and 46 percent of Latino homeowners have been foreclosed on, according to a recent national study by researchers at Princeton University.

An underlying reason for the disparity is that ethnic communities were also disproportionately targeted for predatory loans and practices.

Karina Oricio, who was at Thursday’s rally, says Latinos with limited English skills were especially impacted and targeted. Homeowners like her parents.

Oricio says her parents refinanced their Redwood City home in 2006 and were promised their variable interest would not affect them. At the time, there was no one to translate for them. Their monthly payment dropped from $2100 to $1200, but eight months after that, it spiked to $5000 a month, she says. By July 2008, they could not keep up with the payments, and had already spent down their savings. Oricio says they asked their lender Countrywide (now owned by Bank of America) for a loan modification, but never heard back. Her parents eventually lost their home.

Vissa says the loss of a home is particularly devastating for minorities, because a greater percentage of their wealth is invested in their homes, compared to whites. According to research by Greenlining, Latinos invest 66 percent of their wealth into their homes, and African Americans invest 63 percent compared to about 38 percent for whites.

“If as a minority, you lose your home, you can see how quickly wealth can be drained,” she said.
Homeowners say they want to see legislation passed that halts foreclosures and helps struggling homeowners.

As a start, Assemblyman Mike Davis (D-Los Angeles) says California should ban balloon payments (large, up-front lump-sum payments required by some lenders) and pre-paid penalties (fees borrowers pay a lender when they repay a loan before its scheduled time of maturity). Texas and Vermont have already banned such practices.

Davis says he is disappointed that California hasn't passed such legislation already, considering the state has the fourth highest foreclosure rate in the country.  Five California cities -- Modesto, Stockton, Merced, Riverside, and Vallejo – are among the 10 cities nationally with the highest number of foreclosures.

“This is not an attack on any one entity, but in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” he said

Anger at the banks among the homeowners was also palpable. The event even included a mock auction of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s condominium. Goldman Sachs received a total of $12.9 billion from the bailout. Despite receiving hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money, homeowners have faulted banks for failing to modify a significant number of loans.

Fred Villasenor, executive director for Community Child Care Council of Santa Clara County, shared protestors’ frustration at the banks.

“The bank bailouts have been a sham,” he said. “Homes are being auctioned. They’d rather sell them to the vultures here next to me rather than lower the interest for families. The Obama Administration needs to change this.”

Thea Cushman, who lost her Antioch home in 2009, says banks need to do more to help struggling homeowners.

Cushman, 65, says she tried to modify her home loan for a year with Wells Fargo, but the bank denied her application without explanation. She says she eventually went to U.S. Modification Corp., a private company, that promised to help her. She paid them $4000, but received no help, and hasn’t been able to get any of the money back.

Cushman currently lives in an Oakland apartment with her son, a veteran who served during Operation Desert Storm and now suffers from severe anxiety. The mother and son will face uncertainty again soon. The apartment building has been foreclosed on and is up for auction this month.

“I don’t know where I will go,” she said. “This is just too nerve-wracking.”


 

Comments

 
Anonymous

Posted Jan 17 2011

After Paying 6 Months at the Agreed Upon Rate
Approved Countrywide Loan Modification
Is Retracted by New Service Provider
Sending Our Family into Default

When we purchased our home March 2004, prices were going through the roof. We felt lucky to get in on an interest only loan before prices went out of reach. As prices rose, we refinanced our other debt to obtain the tax right off, but still we were only able to receive an interest only loan on our home.

As the interest rate began to rise on our interest only loan and our wages began to decrease November 2008 we began to experience difficulties making the monthly mortgage payment. Before things got bad, we approached Countrywide for a loan modification. They quickly asked us to sign a forbearance agreement. Within a month, Countrywide expressed in letter they had modified our existing loan reducing the rate to 4% with payments to begin March 2009, that there was nothing we needed to due further to receive this rate. We began making payments as agreed on time.

May 2009, we began to receive our mortgage statement from Bank of America as the new service provider. Bank of American expressed some confusion pointing to the 7/25% interest rate. They sent statements showing late fees. We contacted bank of American and they admitted error whey they received the documents attached showing the new 4% rate.

By June 12, 2009, we received notice our loan would be transferred to Residential Credit Solutions (RCS). After making payments for 6 months on time at the new rate, RCS returned our August 2009 payment on 8/10/2009 and shortly after sent a “Notice of Intent to Take Legal Action” dated 8/24/2009 demanding over 19,000 dollars. We sent RCS the documents substantiating the agreement, but they would not acknowledge them.

We hired US Loan Auditors to perform a loan audit and litigate, but they were not taking quick enough action to stop the foreclosure process and we therefore terminated their service. In an effort to save our home, we attempted to work through RCS for a loan modification, as we felt we have no other alternative. We filled out the applications and sent the documentation they asked for. Every two weeks I would call and ask the status of the application, and every two weeks they would either respond with no status update or say they needed new W2 forms because the previous W2 forms I sent were now out of date!

Finally they put my house up for auction at the Placer Court House steps. During this time my mother-in-law died and two days prior to her death my daughter was married. My car blew a head gasket, and my wages were decreased. Still I determined to immediately hire an attorney. I spent another 5,000 for her to get in contact with RCS who then asked I fill out another loan application for HAMP.

The HAMP application presented made me give up my right to Notice from RCS. I asked why; they responded the withdraw of the right would protect them from having to go through the foreclosure process all over.

The first payment for the HAMP loan was June 1. I paid them the first payment May 14, 2010. RCS removed my home from auction. I paid my attorney my last $2,000.

On June 1, 2010, a friend informed my house was back up for auction. RCS placed the home back up for auction without notice.

Broke, I began to file my own complaint. I took a week off work to research how to file. During my investigation of like cases I found out why Countrywide provided the loan without the normal loan documentation. The Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles Northwest District passed a stipulated judgment ordering Countrywide to provide an introductory rate of 4% for 5 years on the exact type of loan that I had within 60 days of hardship. The attorneys representing the case I found are now representing mine.

That battle goes on. I’m not sure what will happen; but, if I lose my house, America isn’t America anymore!

Doug Kelley
dhk.kelley@gmail.com

Anonymous

Posted Feb 17 2011

Hello,

I am writing to you to invite you to an event that I am organizing in support of the thousands of Alameda County homeowners who are losing their homes to foreclosure due to the massive “Bankster Fraud” perpetrated on homeowners all across California and the rest of America. This problem knows no social barriers and affects our entire community, robbing families of their homes, their sense of safety, and community.

Please join me:

VIGIL SUPPORTING HOMEOWNERS IN FORECLOSURE
Date: Friday, March 4, 2011
Time: Noon – 2 PM
Place: Alameda County Courthouse step, Fallon Street Entrance
Fallon Street, Oakland, CA

Please extend this invitation to anyone who is concerned about the impact of foreclosures on families and our community. This event will take place during an auction of foreclosed homes on the Courthouse steps.

Bring your signs, banners, good will, Bibles and prayers.

We need your support.


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