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US foreclosure sales tumble in Q1-RealtyTrac


NEW YORK |
Thu May 30, 2013 12:00am EDT

NEW YORK May 30 (Reuters) – Sales of U.S. homes in
foreclosure fell in the first quarter, a report from RealtyTrac
showed on Thursday, the latest data to suggest the housing
market is on the mend.

There were 190,121 properties sold that were in the
foreclosure process or already seized by lenders, down 18
percent from the last quarter of 2012 and a decrease of 22
percent from the first quarter the year before.

That accounted for 21 percent of all home sales, down from
25 percent in the first quarter of 2012. It was also well off
the peak of 45 percent seen during the first quarter of 2009 as
the housing market was still reeling from its collapse and the
global financial crisis.

“We’re on our way back to a normal housing market when it
comes to foreclosures,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at
RealtyTrac.

Rising home prices, improved sales, tighter inventory and
low mortgage rates have all combined to help the housing market
get back to its feet over the past year.

While default and foreclosure rates have also improved, they
still remain historically elevated. Foreclosure sales averaged
less than 5 percent of all sales in 2005 and 2006 before the
housing bubble burst, said Blomquist.

“This is kind of like an iceberg that’s shrinking on the
surface but there’s still a lot of distress in the market that’s
probably under the surface and not so obvious,” he said.

Sales of homes seized by lenders totaled 101,371 properties,
down 16 percent from the previous quarter. Sales of homes in
default but not yet foreclosed on were down 20 percent to
88,750.

Short sales of properties not in foreclosure, where the home
is sold for less than the outstanding loan, also decreased. This
suggests some underwater homeowners may be anticipating an
increase in home prices will get them back above water.

After increasing last year, short sales fell 10 percent in
the first quarter.

The top five states with the biggest percentage of
foreclosure sales were Georgia, Illinois, California, Arizona
and Michigan. Foreclosure sales accounted for less than 10
percent of all sales in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

Article source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/30/usa-housing-realtytrac-idUSL2N0EA12Q20130530

Foreclosure Deals Drop 22% as Rising Prices Delay Sales

Foreclosure (HOMFCLOS)-related U.S. home sales fell 22 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier as rising prices reduced the incentive to sell for owners who owe more than their properties are worth, RealtyTrac said.

A total of 190,121 homes in some stage of foreclosure or taken by banks were sold this year through March 31, down 18 percent from the previous three months, the data seller said today. Those deals, including short sales, or transactions in which lenders let homeowners sell for less than what they owe, accounted for 21 percent of first-quarter residential transactions, compared with 25 percent a year earlier.

“Prices going up take away the urgency from banks and homeowners from having to do a short sale,” Daren Blomquist, vice president of Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac, said in a telephone interview. “Short sales have been seen as an alternative to foreclosure, and some people were counting on that to continue in 2013, but we aren’t seeing evidence of that right now.”

U.S. home values rose 10.9 percent in the 12 months through March, the most in seven years, after a 9.4 percent gain in February, according to the SP/Case-Shiller (SPCS20Y%) index. All 20 cities in the gauge had year-over-year price increases. Low interest rates, scarce inventory and rising consumer confidence are helping fuel a “continued, gradual recovery” in the housing market, said Brian Jones, a senior U.S. economist for Societe Generale in New York.

Short Sales

Properties in foreclosure are defined as those that had received a notice of default, auction or seizure by banks. Short sales of homes not in this process made up an estimated 15 percent of total sales in the first quarter, RealtyTrac said. That brought the share of all distressed transactions to 36 percent, down from 39 percent a year earlier.

Underwater owners “may be willing to stick it out a few more months or even years” before selling, in a bid to avoid losing money or damaging their credit, Blomquist said.

Foreclosure-related properties sold for an average of $167,095 in the first quarter, down 1 percent from the previous three months and up 3 percent from a year earlier, RealtyTrac said. Such homes were purchased for an average discount of 30 percent to non-distressed properties.

States where distressed sales accounted for the biggest share of total sales included Georgia at 35 percent, Illinois at 32 percent, California at 30 percent and Arizona and Michigan, both at 28 percent, according to the company.

Among metropolitan areas with populations of more than 500,000, Stockton and Modesto, California, led in distressed sales at 44 percent and 41 percent of all sales respectively, followed by Atlanta at 38 percent, Chicago at 35 percent and Orlando, Florida, and Sacramento, California, both at 30 percent, Blomquist said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Levy in San Francisco at dlevy13@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kara Wetzel at kwetzel@bloomberg.net


Enlarge image
U.S. Foreclosure Deals Decline 22% as Rising Prices Delay Sales

U.S. Foreclosure Deals Decline 22% as Rising Prices Delay Sales

U.S. Foreclosure Deals Decline 22% as Rising Prices Delay Sales

Matthew Staver/Bloomberg

A notice sits above the lock of a home that is under foreclosure.

A notice sits above the lock of a home that is under foreclosure. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg

Article source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-30/foreclosure-deals-drop-22-as-rising-prices-delay-sales.html

Obama administration extends life of anti-foreclosure program


WASHINGTON |
Thu May 30, 2013 10:32am EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration on Thursday said it was extending the life of its signature foreclosure-prevention program by two years to help more struggling borrowers keep their homes.

The Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, was to expire at the end of this year.

When it was unveiled in 2009, the administration estimated it would help 3 million to 4 million homeowners avoid foreclosure by reworking loan terms. So far, however, only about 1.1 million homeowners have benefited from a permanent mortgage modification under the program.

“The housing market is gaining steam, but many homeowners are still struggling,” said Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. “Extending the program for two years will benefit many additional families while maintaining clear standards and accountability for an important part of the mortgage industry.”

The program, which draws from the Treasury Department’s financial bailout fund, pays lenders and servicers to rewrite loan terms for borrowers who can’t make their current mortgage payments.

The administration has refined the program since its inception to broaden its reach, including expanding eligibility and increasing payments to mortgage companies that lower borrowers’ monthly payments.

Still, of the $29.9 billion in bailout funds allocated for HAMP and other housing programs, the Treasury had spent only about $5.2 billion through March.

Officials declined to estimate how many more borrowers would benefit from HAMP’s extension. In addition to borrowers who have received loan modifications, the Treasury said the program had provided an example for the mortgage industry on how to best adjust mortgages for those needing aid.

But the program has been faulted by both Democrats and Republicans and by federal watchdogs for the high number of recipients who default on mortgages after getting the government aid.

“This decision solidifies the Obama administration’s place atop the list of the nation’s biggest subprime lenders,” said Representative Jeb Hensarling, the Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

“HAMP is a costly and abject failure that takes money from hardworking taxpayers, bails out banks that made bad loans, and forces Americans who struggle to pay their own mortgages to also pay their neighbor’s,” Hensarling, of Texas, said.

Last year, the Obama administration offered incentives to encourage government-run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to use the principal-write-down component of HAMP. However, the companies’ regulator has blocked them from doing so, saying the potential benefits to homeowners do not clearly outweigh the potential costs to taxpayers.

(Reporting by Margaret Chadbourn; Editing by Vicki Allen)

Article source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/30/us-usa-treasury-hamp-idUSBRE94T0MU20130530

TruthOut: For Real Economic Recovery, Government Must Stop Favoring Banks …

We’re now in the sixth year of the economic collapse and the home foreclosure crisis persists. It continues to drag down families, destroy wealth, weaken communities and prevent economic recovery. Inadequate government response has led to a long-term economic crisis that could have been avoided. With good policy, more losses can still be avoided and the economy can begin a real recovery. According to a 2010 report by the Center for Responsible Lending, 2.5 million homes completed the foreclosure process between 2007 and 2010. The 2011 report by the Center for Responsible Lending found that the country was not even halfway through the foreclosure crisis. In total, the Federal Reserve estimates that $7 trillion in home equity was lost from American households between 2006 and 2011 due to the housing crisis.

The crisis of foreclosure and lost wealth is not over. Every three months, 250,000 new families enter the foreclosure process. According to a May 2013 report of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), more than 13 million homes are still underwater, which increases the risk of foreclosure.

This crisis could have been averted through government policy that placed the needs of people, rather than those of the bankers, first. Because that hasn’t happened yet, people are coming together and demanding that the Department of Justice (DOJ) start holding the big banks accountable. The Home Defenders League, a coalition of local groups that are fighting foreclosure, held a series of actions at the DOJ last week.

In this article, we describe what individuals can do to protect themselves and what local and federal governments can do to resolve the foreclosure crisis and place the nation on a path of economic recovery for everyone, not just for the wealthy.

The Foreclosure Crisis and Fake Recovery Hurt Everyone

Homes are the most valuable asset of American workers. Each foreclosure results in an average of $131,200 in lost wealth for the homeowner. In 2012, a total of $192.6 billion in wealth was lost due to foreclosures across the United States. For each of the nation’s 113.7 million households, that equals an average of $1,679 in lost wealth. If the 13 million homes still at risk are foreclosed, another $221 billion in wealth will be destroyed, according to a report by the Home Defenders League released on May 20, 2013, “Wasted Wealth: How the Wall Street Crash Continues to Stall Economic Recovery and Deepen Racial Inequity in America.”

Foreclosures do not only destroy the wealth of the families who lost their homes; they also drag down neighbors and communities. A report, “The Municipal Cost of Foreclosures,” shows that foreclosures can result in as much as an additional $220,000 in reduced property value and home equity for nearby homes. In addition, foreclosure can add costs to local governments. One foreclosure can impose up to $34,000 in direct costs on local government agencies, including inspections, court actions, police and fire department time, potential demolition, unpaid water and sewage, and trash removal. Foreclosures in Newark, New Jersey, have cost the city, and taxpayers, $56 million, according to a report by New Jersey Communities United.

Click here for the full story.

Article source: http://uprisingradio.org/home/2013/05/29/truthout-for-real-economic-recovery-government-must-stop-favoring-banks-over-homeowners/

AG Schneiderman and Senate Majority Coalition Leader Klein Highlight …



May 29, 2013

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Bills Before State Senate Will Ensure New Yorkers Are Protected From Irresponsible, Or Even Criminal, Behavio; Schneiderman: Legislation Will Keep Homeowners Out Of The Legal Limbo Ensure Their Rights Are Honored

(MINEOLA) — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York State Senate Majority Coalition Leader Jeff Klein today highlighted the “Certificate of Merit” bill (A. 5582) and the Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act (A.7395), two important pieces of legislation to protect New York homeowners facing foreclosure. Both bills passed the New York State Assembly last week, and will be soon be decided on by the New York State Senate. Many homeowners in New York are still fighting to stay in their homes, and these bills would ensure that families are protected from careless, or irresponsible, or even criminal behavior.

The “Certificate of Merit” bill would ensure homeowners have a chance to participate in court-supervised mediation sessions that could help them keep their homes. The Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act would impose criminal penalties on residential mortgage lenders, servicers and their agents who intentionally engage in fraudulent or deceptive conduct in the preparation, execution or filing of false foreclosure documents. This legislation was proposed by Attorney General Schneiderman and are being sponsored in the Senate by Senator Klein.

“On Long Island and all across New York State, wrongful foreclosure and the growing ‘shadow docket’ are preventing thousands of families from even getting a chance to keep their homes,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Both the ‘Certificate of Merit’ bill and the Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act address these critical problems by proposing common-sense reforms to keep homeowners out of the legal limbo and ensure their rights are honored. The Assembly has already acted to empower hardworking New Yorkers fighting against foreclosure. It is now time for the Senate to do the same.”

Senate Majority Coalition Leader Jeff Klein said, “Any family that is facing the loss of their home deserves a fair day in court. But right now, unnecessary delays and incomplete paperwork are denying thousands of families this opportunity every day. These reforms can help change all of that, by ending the stalemate and bringing these homeowners the peace of mind that they deserve. That’s why I’m proud to support these measures and look forward to ushering them through the Senate.”

“With these new laws, we will hold criminals accountable for their abusive foreclosure practices and deter them from unlawfully removing New Yorkers from their homes, and eliminate the “shadow docket” in the courts”, said Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman have recognized the problems in foreclosure and have put forward corrective legislation, to protect New York’s homeowners. I look forward to the Senate passing this much needed legislation.”

Village of Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall said, “The law gives homeowners in foreclosure the right to a settlement conference with their bank to try to save their home, and the sooner they can schedule a conference, the more likely they are to be successful. Attorney General Schneiderman’s legislation will ensure that homeowners can exercise their rights, and give them a fighting chance to keep their home.”

Long Beach City Council President Scott J. Mandel said, “Abusive foreclosure practices and the needless ‘shadow docket’ place huge burdens on homeowners already struggling to keep their homes and avoid displacement. But these bills will assist ongoing efforts to bring relief to New Yorkers and stop the foreclosure crisis threatening so many Long Island communities. Thank you to Attorney General Schneiderman for introducing this legislation, and to Senator Klein for sponsoring it in the Senate.”

“Too many older New Yorkers are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure because some banks and their lawyers are exploiting administrative loopholes which are denying homeowners a chance at affordable settlements – all the while continuing to charge interest and fees. This needs to change,” said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York. “AARP applauds Attorney General Schneiderman and Senator Klein for proposing a common sense solution to stop banks’ delay tactics and help homeowners get the resolution they deserve – and the chance to keep their homes.”

Elie Hecht, Director of Labor and Industry for Education (LIFE), said, “In working with underserved communities on Long Island, we’ve seen numerous cases of homeowners left waiting for lenders to adhere to legal requirements, struggling while their loan interest and legal fees pile up. Such injustices should simply not be allowed to happen. This legislation will put an end to the harmful delays that prevent New York homeowners from finally moving past the foreclosure crisis.”

Josh Zinner, Co-Director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Agency (NEDAP), said, “Abuse by lenders in the foreclosure process has caused great harm to communities throughout the state. The proposed legislation would be an important step toward reforming the process – it would ensure that lenders don’t file foreclosures based on invalid information, and it would speed up the time it takes homeowners to get to court-supervised mediation. These reforms would enable more homeowners to get loan modifications and save their homes.”

Kristen Brown Lilley, Director of Policy Advoacy at the Empire Justice Center, said, “This bill addresses a real problem for homeowners who are stuck in legal limbo because lenders aren’t filing the required paperwork. If enacted, foreclosure cases will move more swiftly through the foreclosure process, giving homeowners a better chance of saving their homes, and returning vacant properties to the housing market more quickly.”

Homeowners’ foreclosure cases regularly languish for months, or even years, when financial institutions delay in filing critical paperwork that affirms the basis for the foreclosing bank’s right to foreclose on the property and ultimately triggers a settlement conference – the mandatory process under New York law that provides borrowers an opportunity to negotiate alternatives to foreclosure, such as loan modifications or short sales.

The delays and subsequent backlogs, often referred to as the “shadow docket,” have become a major burden on both homeowners and the judicial system. This legislative fix will require banks to file the necessary paperwork, which ultimately triggers the settlement conference, simultaneously with the filing of any foreclosure action, thus avoiding future delays. The Office of Court Administration issued a report in July of 2012 which found that 25,000 families are trapped in this legal foreclosure limbo.

In 2009, Senator Klein authored landmark foreclosure legislation aimed at protecting homeowners and preserving property values in communities stricken with high rates of foreclosure. Senator Klein’s legislation, which was signed into law by Governor Paterson, requires banks to maintain foreclosed properties, creates new ways for homeowners to stay in their homes after foreclosure proceedings, and guarantees every homeowner the right to a settlement conference prior to any court proceeding.

The Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act would impose both misdemeanor and felony-level penalties for lenders and servicers who knowingly engage in fraudulent residential mortgage foreclosure practices. These fraudulent activities include falsifying mortgage foreclosure documents–a practice that came to be known as “robo-signing,” which was rampant in New York and across the country during the early part of the foreclosure crisis.

An investigation of robo-signing conducted by the Office of the Attorney General with 48 State Attorneys General, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, led to the signing of the National Mortgage Settlement, a $25 billion agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers and provides for billions in mandated consumer relief including mortgage refinancing and principal reductions.

The bill will create a legal definition for residential mortgage foreclosure fraud, which will apply to mortgage lenders and servicers, and extend both to their lower level employees and “high managerial agents.” This aspect of the bill is particularly significant because it carries the potential to bring criminal charges against law firms and servicers that specialize in high-volume residential foreclosure cases and knowingly engage in fraud.

Attorney General Schneiderman has made protecting homeowners struggling to avoid foreclosure a top priority. In June 2012, he announced the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), a three-year, $60 million initiative to fund housing counselors and legal services across New York State. The program strives to ensure that every family facing foreclosure has access to a knowledgeable and qualified professional advocate.

Throughout New York State, 34 legal services organizations and 59 housing counseling agencies will receive over $16.1 million this year to provide free foreclosure prevention services. An additional $3.9 million has been allocated for training, technical assistance, and other support services to assist homeowners in foreclosure. In part because of the advocacy of HOPP funded housing counselors and legal services providers, over 4,300 New York homeowners have completed, or have active trial modifications for approximately $540 million worth of first mortgage principal reduction.

For more information on Attorney General Schneiderman’s efforts to support New York families caught in the foreclosure crisis, visit www.AGHomeHelp.com.



 


 

Posted by Christopher Boyle · Filed Under
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Article source: http://www.newsli.com/2013/05/29/ag-schneiderman-and-senate-majority-coalition-leader-klein-highlight-foreclosure-relief-bills/

States with court intervention top foreclosure-inventory rates

States where lenders must go through the court system to move a borrower into foreclosure have the highest rates of troubled properties, according to data released Wednesday.

In April the three states with the highest foreclosure inventory as a percentage of all mortgaged homes in April were Florida, New Jersey and New York, each of which is a judicial state, according to CoreLogic, an Irvine, Calif.-based analysis firm.

“Judicial states, as a rule, have longer foreclosure timelines, thus affecting foreclosure statistics,” according to CoreLogic’s report.

In judicial states, lenders must give nonpayment evidence to the courts to move borrowers into foreclosure, rather than issuing default notices directly to borrowers without involving the courts.

In April, the foreclosure-inventory rate was 9.5% in Florida, 7.4% in New Jersey and 5.1% in New York, compared with a U.S. rate of 2.8%. Among non-judicial states, the highest foreclosure-inventory rate was in Nevada, which was hit particularly hard when the housing bubble burst.

A drawn-out foreclosure process gives borrowers more time to get back on their financial feet, said John Taylor, chief executive of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a Washington-based advocacy group. Sometimes borrowers who experience a personal-financial shock such as a divorce or job loss need a bit of a time cushion, he said.

“A judicial state forces mortgage holders and servicers to work with the borrower and be patient,” Taylor said.

U.S. foreclosure inventory declined 2% from March to hit about 1.1 million homes in April. Compared with April 2012, there were 24% fewer U.S. homes in some stage of foreclosure.

–Ruth Mantell

Follow Ruth on Twitter @ruthmantell

Follow the Capitol Report blog on Twitter @capitolreport

Article source: http://blogs.marketwatch.com/election/2013/05/29/states-with-court-intervention-top-foreclosure-inventory-rates/

Orlando’s foreclosure inventory falls 3% in April



Orlandos foreclosure inventory declined to 9.5 percent in April, according to a CoreLogic report.

Orlando’s foreclosure inventory declined to 9.5 percent in April, according to a CoreLogic report.










Megan Anderson
Web Producer- Orlando Business Journal

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Orlando’s foreclosure inventory declined to 9.5 percent in April, down 3 percentage points when compared to the year-ago period, according to the latest report from CoreLogic.

The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area also completed 11,180 foreclosures in the 12 months ending in April, according to the report (NYSE: CLGX).

Florida had the highest number of completed foreclosures at 102,000, as well as the highest foreclosure inventory as a percentage of all mortgaged homes at 9.5 percent.

Nationwide, there were 52,000 foreclosures completed in April 2013, a 16 percent decrease from 62,000 foreclosures during the same period last year.

The country’s foreclosure inventory was 2.8 percent, down 0.7 percentage points from one year ago.


Article source: http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/news/2013/05/29/orlandos-foreclosures-inventory-falls.html

New York State Officials Urge Passage Of Foreclosure Protection Measures

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – There’s a push to strengthen New York State’s homeowner protection rights.

State Senate co-leader Jeff Klein said it is in everyone’s interest for banks to negotiate a settlement with homeowners in foreclosure limbo and is encouraging senate action on two bills that would make that happen.

“The best way we can keep a homeowner in their home is by having them sit down with the bank, with the financial institution, with the counsel, with a lawyer and work out a settlement,” Klein told reporters including WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs on Wednesday.

The Certificate of Merit bill and the Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act have already been passed by the assembly and are awaiting senate action.

“Nobody benefits from a foreclosure,” Klein said. “And I think it’s incumbent upon us to make sure that we force the banks to make sure that they put a homeowner in a mortgage they can afford.”

The legislation, proposed by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, would also impose criminal penalties for those committing fraudulent foreclosure practices.

“This will save thousands of New Yorkers’ homes,” Schneiderman said.

For more information on Schneiderman’s efforts to help New York families caught in foreclosure, visit www.AGHomeHelp.com.

You May Also Be Interested In These Stories

Article source: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/05/29/new-york-state-officials-urge-passage-of-foreclosure-protection-measures/

Lawmakers seek to shorten the amount of time to stop a bank foreclosure

Opponents of a plan to change the foreclosure process in Michigan say it would put more people out of their homes and hurt property values.

They were in Lansing today to protest a package of bills in the state Legislature.

The legislation would shorten the amount of time homeowners have to stop a bank foreclosure from six months to two months.

Ingham County Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel Jr. says banks have wrongly foreclosed on thousands of properties across the state.

He says it often takes months for people to prove they don’t deserve to lose their home.

“If you’ve ever dealt with Bank of America, trying to get an individual person on the phone several times is a very difficult process. Getting a call back is a very difficult process. To think that within 60 days we’re going to actually solve these problems, I think is just – it’s frankly insane,” said Hertel Jr.

The legislation would also add 30 days to the grace period before the foreclosure proceedings begin.

Supporters of the plan say that would help homeowners avoid having their homes seized. They say the bills would reduce blight and cut costs for banks and their customers.

Bill sponsor Senator Darwin Booher (R-Evart), a former banker, says making the process easier for banks would benefit consumers.

“The cost to the foreclosure, it passes to the bottom line. That’s the cost to my checking account. That’s the cost to me in the interest rate that I pay. [It] all filters to the bottom line,” Booher said.

Article source: http://www.michiganradio.org/post/lawmakers-seek-shorten-amount-time-stop-bank-foreclosure

Homeowners Take Foreclosure Fight to the DOJ

We’re proud to collaborate with The Nation in sharing insightful journalism related to income inequality in America. The following is an excerpt from Nation contributor Greg Kaufmann’s “This Week in Poverty” column.


Protesters mobilize at Freedom Plaza. Credit: Greg KaufmannProtesters mobilize at Freedom Plaza. Credit: Greg Kaufmann

Gisele Mata of Whittier, California, never considered herself a political activist. Other than making some calls on behalf of President Obama during the 2012 campaign, her focus was on her work, family, church and volunteering as a Girl Scout troop leader.

But on Monday, May 20, 2013, at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., she was ready to march to the Department of Justice, where she would risk arrest in order to save her family’s home and stand up for other people facing foreclosure.

“Banks are doing extreme things to get people out of their homes, so it requires extreme action,” Mata told me. “I wouldn’t be here except the banks are not being monitored so we have to stand up as citizens. They are getting away with acts of inhuman behavior and the Justice Department is not reacting.”

Mata was among 500 activists from across the country who came to the nation’s capital to “Bring Justice to Justice” — participating in three days of action organized by Home Defenders League and Occupy Our Homes. They were calling for the criminal prosecution of banks for ongoing illegal activity, including illegal foreclosures; and for resetting mortgages to a property’s fair market value for the more than 13 million homeowners still at risk of foreclosure.

Mata and her family have been in their home for more than ten years. Their struggle began in 2009 when she and her husband were laid off from their jobs in retail and engineering, respectively. They survived by cashing out on their 401(k)s and working in low-wage jobs.

“We didn’t have any problems until last year,” she said, when they no longer could afford both their home and food for their family of five. So Mata and her husband requested a mortgage modification from Bank of America.

“We asked them to tack on what we owed to the principal, and to give us the going interest rate because we still have a high rate,” she said. “We aren’t even asking for a principal reduction. Plus we’re both working, we have equity in our home—but they still refuse.”

Her eldest daughter is now working as a massage therapist. Her husband is again employed as an aircraft parts quality inspector — for $13 an hour, compared to the $19 hourly wage he previously earned — and Mata earns commissions as a sales representative for an energy company. But the high interest payments they are paying force them to choose between a roof over their head or food for the family.

“Right now we’re choosing the roof and getting food from our church in order to make payments on the mortgage,” she said. “And we go to the 99 cent store and buy Top Ramen [noodles] and tuna fish. That’s pretty much how we make it.”

But even as the Matas continue to make their payments, Bank of America continues to push for foreclosure. Her dealings with the bank in an effort to get a modification tell a story that is now all too familiar in this country.

“Negotiating means paperwork multiple times over and over again,” she said. “As soon as you get it in they switch your point-of-contact and then you have to start over again. And as many times as they ask is how many times you do it, or else they won’t consider you for the modification. No one is holding them accountable.”

Ann Haines of St. Paul, Minnesota, was also ready to get arrested after experiencing an even more extreme nightmare in dealing with U.S. Bank. She had lived in her home with her three sons for thirteen years, and was struggling to meet a monthly mortgage payment that had risen from $800 to $1,300.

“I work in intake at a methadone program,” she said. “I see people at their lowest and my nature is to help. So I was foolishly thinking that by asking the bank for help I would get it.”

Instead, what she got was U.S. Bank telling her to stop making payments for three months so she would be eligible for a modification, followed by the bank sending her the wrong modification application. She then arrived home one day to find her locks changed and a realtor going out her back door. The bank proceeded with a sheriff’s sale.

“It was terrifying and you don’t know what to do,” said Haines.

Legal Aid was able to stop the sale of her home, since the bank admitted it had sent her the wrong modification application and foreclosed while she was still in underwriting — a process known as “dual tracking.” (This is now barred under the California Homeowners’ Bill of Rights and the just-passed Minnesota Homeowners’ Bill of Rights.)

“But what really inspired me to fight was the attorney for U.S. Bank sitting across from me in court and saying, ‘The only negotiation U.S. Bank is willing to do right now is to get her out,’ ” said Haines. “He didn’t have enough courage to look at me, but he said it.”

Haines hooked up with Occupy Homes MN and traveled last month to the U.S. Bank shareholders meeting in Boise, Idaho, to confront CEO Richard Davis.

“Two days later the eviction case was magically closed,” said Haines.

She described herself as “elated” that she no longer fears losing her home at any moment. But she still felt the need to be in Washington, D.C., to support other struggling homeowners.

“I don’t want to be arrested, jail is scary for me,” she said. “But I’m willing to do it to show that this is serious. There are too many people going through this, and the banks have to be held accountable. If I did something wrong they would hold me accountable.”

Cammy Dupuy of Gonzales, Louisiana, isn’t affiliated with any particular group — she had learned about the action in recent weeks on the Internet. She was also prepared for arrest, though not particularly looking forward to it.

“I’m really nervous and scared to go to jail,” said Dupuy. “But if that’s what it takes to let people know they’re not alone — the shame shouldn’t be put on people.”

Since 2006, Dupuy’s mortgage has had so many different banks and loan servicers attached to it that the trail is dizzying. As a result, she has had her paperwork lost as servicers change, not been provided new mailing addresses for payments, fought off two sheriff’s sales and even received modification “offers” that would have had her paying double-digit interest rates and waiving her right to sue for the mishandling of her note.

Throughout her struggle, Dupuy has found herself alone.

“The thing about Louisiana, nobody talks about foreclosures, and they don’t put signs out in people’s yards like in other states, so they really keep it from the public,” she said. “But I’ve been pulling up the sales on my local sheriff’s website and every month there are quite a bit just in my parish alone.”

Dupuy said a lot of people are “just walking away because they don’t know what to do.”

“I’m tired of feeling alone. I want people in Louisiana to start talking about it, start standing up, start doing something,” said Dupuy. “The people in Louisiana fear the law. But if all of us come together and take a stand then fear shouldn’t be a problem.”

By the end of the day on Monday, Mata was arrested on the steps of the Department of Justice along with sixteen other nonviolent activists. (The nonviolence by activists didn’t translate to nonviolent arrests by Homeland Security officers, who used tasers.) The demonstrators had set up an encampment and also blocked traffic along a very busy Constitution Avenue. Mata and others didn’t give their names when booked — they didn’t want this to be just another routine booking and quick release — so she was held until Tuesday evening.

“I told them I was [Bank of America CEO] Brian Moynihan,” said Mata, and many of the other demonstrators who were arrested used the names of bank CEOs as well.

Dupuy was arrested along with six other homeowners Wednesday morning while blocking the lobby entrance to Covington Burling — a prominent international law firm that has represented JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS and other major banks. Haines was one of the demonstrators blocking the entrance too, but because she was on the outside of the building, police just removed her from the space.

In addition to representing the large banks, organizers said the law firm epitomizes the “revolving door” between serving government and serving Wall Street’s interests, noting that Attorney General Eric Holder was a partner at Covington Burling before coming to the DOJ, and former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer left his post in March to become vice chair of the firm.

For three straight days, these homeowners and their supporters — mostly low-income people of color — demonstrated what it means to personally sacrifice for the good of others, to move beyond hopeful words to deeds and actions.

I hope that those of us who seek change feel their urgency, and will follow their lead to take more and greater action — together.

Victories in Minnesota: Progressive Budget and Homeowners Bill of Rights

According to Carol Nieters, executive director of SEIU Local 284, in 1971, Minnesota Governor Wendell Anderson called education equity — poor school districts that were struggling — and high property taxes “the issue of our time.”

The state legislature responded by creating a “general education levy” that equalized and created dedicated funding for schools, and also lowered property taxes.

“It went forward like that for like the next four decades,” said Nieters. “It put Minnesota in a place to be a premier state in education.”

But then along came Governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura who body-slammed the levy, and Governor Tim Pawlenty who presided over nearly a decade of disinvestment from schools and taking from school appropriations to plug other holes in the budget.

“As a result, we’ve now got ten or eleven four-day school districts, and other than core curriculum, everything else is cut out — arts, music, in some cases languages,” said Nieters.

But this week the state reaffirmed its commitment to education. At a time when so many states are opting to close schools that primarily serve low-income students, Minnesota passed a budget that closes corporate tax loopholes and increases education funding and equity.

The 2013 budget erases the state’s $627 million budget deficit, raises the income tax by 2 percent on the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans, raises $424 million by closing corporate tax loopholes and reduces property taxes by $400 million.

The budget uses new revenues to make key investments in education, including: fully funding optional, all-day kindergarten; increasing special education funding by $236 million; and importantly, passing two levies that will make funding for all school districts more reliable, while also providing additional resources to local districts with the greatest need.

“This budget gets to equity in education and reduces property taxes,” said Nieters. “Over four decades later we are doing the same thing we did right in 1971.”

She said the budget was achieved by the union and its progressive allies reaching out to groups all across the state that were pursuing a “common interest of stronger communities [through] an educated society and workforce.” They began organizing prior to the 2012 election with a message that wealthy individuals and corporations must pay their fair share in order to strengthen education. Many Democrats ran on that platform, and the party picked up enough seats to win majorities in both the House and Senate.

After the election, the grassroots coalition kept the pressure on the newly elected legislators to follow through on their commitments. In the last few months alone, there were thousands of calls, visits, letters and e-mails to representatives, and a “Students’ Day” for parents and children at the Capitol, with students from kindergarten through high school attending.

The budget was passed last Monday night by the legislature, and Democratic Governor Mark Dayton signed it into law on Thursday.

“We engaged organizations all over the state — and we can make a difference if we do that,” said Nieters. “The voice of the people can be heard over the folks with the money. But you gotta get out there.”

* * *

On May 12, 2013, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights by a bipartisan 123-0 vote. The Senate passed a companion bill two weeks ago, so now it just awaits Governor Dayton’s signature.

The bill protects homeowners through a number of provisions, including: requiring loan servicers to offer modifications to all eligible homeowners; banning “dual tracking,” which occurs when a bank forecloses on a homeowner before communicating a decision on a loan modification application; and allowing homeowners to take the servicer to court to stop foreclosure if the servicer fails to comply with any aspect of the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights. (Also important, lawyer’s fees and court costs would be covered if the homeowner proves his or her case.)

Ann Haines, the homeowner from St. Paul interviewed in the DOJ story above, testified along with other homeowners at a House hearing on the bill in January.


Greg Kaufmann is a Nation contributor covering poverty in America. His work has also appeared on Common DreamsAlternet, Tikkun.org, NPR.org, CBSNews.com and MichaelMoore.com. He serves as an adviser for the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Article source: http://billmoyers.com/2013/05/28/homeowners-take-foreclosure-fight-to-the-doj/