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Occupy Homes targets bank’s bad faith

Just as the Occupy movement gives voice to the widespread perception that our economic system isn’t fair and  doesn’t work for ordinary people, the growing movement to occupy homes responds to a foreclosure crisis caused by banks that are unresponsive and unfair to homeowners.

Case in point:  Sherri Norris.  She’s one of thousands of homeowners who’ve made good faith efforts to deal with mortgage troubles and been stonewalled and misled by banks.

Thursday she’ll announce that, with the support of her neighbors and of Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, she’s staying in her home, despite an eviction order.

The announcement is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, December 8, at her home at 2029 S. 17th Avenue in Broadview, a near-west suburb.

For over ten years, according to CAUFE, Norris made her mortgage payment every month, totalling over $70,000 in payments.  In the summer of 2008 she began struggling and wrote the bank a hardship letter.  US Bank suggested a modification and subsequently offered six trial modifications, charging up to $4,000 in upfront fees each time – but never making a modification permanent.

In 2010 she sought a modification under the government’s Making Homes Affordable program.  She says a bank official requested more documentation from her on November 27 of that year, and when she checked back two weeks later, she was told her home had been sold at auction.

According to CAUFE, US Bank then bought the property back for $33,000 – less than half of what Norris paid over them for it over 13 years.

Bank got bailed out

Simon Swartzman of CAUFE points out that in 2008, at the same time Norris was asking US Bank for help, the bank was going to the federal government for help, getting a $6.6 billion bailout.

“At the same time she was going to them for help – and they said they were helping, but they weren’t doing anything except taking her money – they were going to the government for help, and they were getting money on both ends,” he said.  “So when the bank asks for help, or when one of us asks the bank for help – either way they make money.”

Occupying homes is a way of forcing banks to negotiate, Swartzman said.  “It’s effectively going on strike,” he said, and if enough people do it, “it’s how we’ll get collective bargaining.”

In a letter to the bank, Norris said she wants them to “negotiate in good faith,” saying she wants to buy her home back – at its current value, and with a fixed-rate mortgage.  But, she says, she’s not leaving.

She’s been knocking on doors and finding much support among neighbors, Swartzman said. He estimated that there are 100 to 150 homes in the foreclosure process within her immediate neighborhood.

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Category: banks & credit, foreclosures, housing

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