foreclosures – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.12 Foreclosures and the black community http://www.newstips.org/2013/10/foreclosures-and-the-black-community/ Tue, 29 Oct 2013 17:57:25 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7913 African American families in Chicago and nationwide have been hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis, particularly with mortgage lenders exploiting a long history of discrimination in lending and housing. But what happens when they challenge the banks that have evicted millions of families and destroyed their life savings and economic security?

That’s the subject of a new book, “A Dream Foreclosed: Black American and the Fight for a Place to Call Home,” which looks at the issue through the experiences of four families. (Essence has published an excerpt featuring the story of Chicagoan Martha Biggs, now an activist with the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign.)

Author Laura Gottesdiener will discuss the book, joined by Martha Biggs and Ebonee Stevenson of CAEC and Jim Harbin from the Resident Association of Greater Englewood, at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, 5733 S. University, Wednesday, October 30 at 6 p.m.

 

Related: Englewood left out of city’s foreclosure rehab program (2011).

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Community groups cheer DeMarco replacement http://www.newstips.org/2013/05/community-groups-cheer-demarco-replacement/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/05/community-groups-cheer-demarco-replacement/#comments Thu, 02 May 2013 00:15:34 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7169 Last week Chicagoans joined a national protest action at the home of Federal Housing Finance Agency director Edward DeMarco, demanding his resignation.

On Wednesday, President Obama responded to growing demands to replace DeMarco, naming U.S. Representative Mel Watt (D-NC) as his replacement.

“It’s long overdue,” commented Katie Buitrago of the Woodstock Institute.

“This is a good day for homeowners and families across the state of Illinois and a big step in the right direction for our economy,” said Rev. Marilyn Pagán-Banks of IIRON, a Chicago-area organizing network.

“We now encourage Congressman Watt to implement common-sense policies like principal reduction to bring relief to tens of millions of homeowners and to jumpstart the economic progress our country needs.”

Community groups and housing advocates have called for DeMarco’s replacement for over a year, faulting him for blocking principal reductions on mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the FHFA oversees.

They argue that reducing mortgage principal to reflect the fair market value of homes that since the housing crash are worth less than what homeowners owe would prevent foreclosures, stabilize the housing market, and boost the economy.

DeMarco has been “the biggest roadblock to our country’s economic recovery,” said Tracy Van Slyke of the New Bottom Line coalition, which has spearheaded a “Dump DeMarco” campaign.

At last week’s action, as 500 people from National Peoples Action gathered at DeMarco’s Washington D.C. home,  Reverend Cliff Parks of Illinois Peoples Action noted that Fannie and Freddie control over half the mortgages in the nation, including those of nearly 14 million  underwater homeowners.  (See video below.)

Elizabeth Scrafford, a DePaul student and leader with IIRON Student Network, read a resignation letter drafted for DeMarco, holding him responsible for 1,800 families facing unnecessary new foreclosures every day that he has delayed approval of principal reduction.

Watt is known as an early advocate for action against predatory lending, Buitrago said.

Noting that he faces an uphill battle to win confirmation from the Senate, Buitrago said Obama should consider installing Watt with a recess appointment.  The administration’s previous nominee for the post withdrew in 2011 after Senate Republicans refused to act on his nomination.

Republicans say they want a plan from the administration for eliminating Fannie and Freddie before they consider an FHFA appointment.  But IIRON and other groups are calling on Watt to “support the vital role [the agencies] play in ensuring housing opportunities.”

Check out “NPA knocks on Ed DeMarco’s door,” from April 22:

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Madigan joins calls to replace DeMarco at FHFA http://www.newstips.org/2013/03/madigan-joins-calls-to-replace-demarco-at-fhfa/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/03/madigan-joins-calls-to-replace-demarco-at-fhfa/#comments Tue, 19 Mar 2013 23:01:39 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7058 Days after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined the growing chorus demanding the replacement of FHFA interim director Edward DeMarco, fifteen protestors interrupted DeMarco’s appearance Tuesday before the House Finance Committee.

Five were arrested, according to the New Bottom Line Campaign.  (Video here.)

“DeMarco is kicking my family out of my home,” called out Ramon Suero, a homeowner facing foreclosure and one of the five arrested. “Dump DeMarco! Principal Reduction now!

“Ed DeMarco’s policies are putting my three kids, my wife, and me out on the street. If the president doesn’t get rid of him, he’s responsible for putting millions of Americans just like me on street as well.”

Housing advocates have been calling on President Obama to replace DeMarco, who has blocked principal reduction for underwater homeowners with mortgages held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  (See previous Newstips here.)

“DeMarco’s actions are driving millions of Americans into foreclosure and record debt,” said Tracy Van Slyke, executive director of the New Bottom Line.

“We are fed up, and it is time for President Obama to act on his promises to America’s middle class by dumping DeMarco and nominating a permanent director who will move principal reduction at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and stand with all homeowners and taxpayers.”

New Bottom Line is backed by Chicago-based National People’s Action.  Local groups including the Woodstock Institute and IIRON have also called for DeMarco’s firing.

With 25 percent of the nation’s homeowners owing more than their homes are worth — including a half-million homeowners in Illinois — systematic principal reduction would provide a major boost to the ailing economy and revive the housing market, New Bottom Line has argued.

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that Madigan joined attorney generals from several states in calling on Obama to fire DeMarco.  The Bush administration holdover has ignored Treasury Department support for principal reduction, which was a major feature of the state AGs’ settlement with five big banks over the “robo-signing” foreclosure fraud scandal last year.

“Unfortunately, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remain an obstacle to progress by refusing to adopt policies that will maximize relief for homeowners,” Madigan said in a release. “It is time for new leadership at the agency who will address the foreclosure crisis in a meaningful way to help bolster the nation’s economic recovery.”

The FHFA’s continued position that principal forgiveness conflicts with its goal of asset preservation is “not supported by reality,” the attorneys general assert in a letter to the president.

Last month, Representative Jan Schakowsky joined 44 House members in a letter to Obama calling on him to replace DeMarco.

“It is time now for the president just to say: ‘Edward DeMarco, you are fired,’” Schakowsky said.

Under DeMarco, the FHFA has challenged Chicago’s vacant properties ordinance, arguing the agency cannot be legally required to maintain foreclosed properties it owns.

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Second term: immigration, climate, foreclosures http://www.newstips.org/2013/01/second-term-immigration-climate-foreclosures/ Sun, 20 Jan 2013 02:24:45 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6934 Immigration reform, climate change, the foreclosure crisis: with some disappointment over limited progress on these issues over the past four years, local activists hope more will be done in President Obama’s second term.

While support for comprehensive immigration reform has broadened noticeably since the November election, immigrant rights groups are concerned over dramatically stepped-up deportations under Obama, which reached 409,000 last year.

They’ll march on Inauguration Day (Monday, January 21, starting at 11 a.m. at the Daley Plaza and rallying at 12 noon at the Federal Plaza) calling on Obama to declare a moratorium on deporations.

A moratorium would be a first step toward comprehensive reform, said Eric Rodriguez, executive director of the Latino Union of Chicago.

“We want the president to be on the right side of history,” he said.  “His second term will define his legacy.  Will he be the president who deported more people than any other in history, or the president responsible for championing inclusion and equality?”

Immigration raids are a constant threat in Chicago communities today, said Tania Unzueta of the Immigant Youth Justice League; just last week scores of local residents were picked up in raids on a factory and two gathering places for day laborers.  IYJL is working to support several families who have members in detention, she said.

“Obama says he wants to do the right thing and keep families together, but we aren’t seeing it in our communities,” she said.

What should reform look like?  It should be comprehensive rather than piecemeal, and it should include a path to citizenship — not some kind of extended residency — that does not exclude large numbers of people, said Fred Tsao of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

“It needs to fix the current legal immigration system, so people aren’t waiting in line for ten or twenty years,” he said.  Reform should extend to enforcement policies, which have been cited for human rights violations, for impairing community safety, and most recently for exorbitant costs, with immigration enforcement spending outpacing the combined budgets of the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, and BATF.

Immigration reform should also include measures aimed at integrating immigrants, including English language education and citizenship training, Tsao said, pointing at Illinois’s New Americans Initiative as a model.

He adds that the support of Republican leaders in Springfield for a measure providing drivers licenses for undocumented residents during the recent veto sessions offers another model for politicians in Washington.

(For more, Colorlines has a guide to immigration reform.)

 

Chicagoans will be among thousands of protestors in Washington D.C. on February 17 for Forward on Climate, called by 350.org, the Sierra Club, and the Hip Hop Caucus, urging Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline as “the first step in putting our country on the path for addressing the climate crisis.”

After 15,000 protestors circled the White House a year ago, Obama postponed a decision of approval for the pipeline. Tar sands oil emits far more carbon than conventional oil, and a new study points out that the use of a refinery byproduct as a coal substitute – even more carbon-intensive than coal – will add dramatically to climate damage.

“We’re trying to start the new session of Congress and President Obama’s second term by showing that the public is beyond ready for serious action on climate and clean energy,” said Jack Darin, executive director of the Illinois Sierra Club.

On clean energy, “we need to level the playing field; it’s been titled toward fossil fuels for decades,” he said.  “If we give the market a clear signal we’re going to support and buy clean energy, it will respond.”

Darin praised departing EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and several initiatives in the administration’s first term, including raising mileage standards for cars — “the single largest reduction of pollution ever” – and regulations on toxic emissions from coal plants and on carbon emissions from new sources.  “The key now is finding ways to reduce carbon from existing sources,” he said.

Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy policy, which seeks development of renewable energy along with oil, coal, and natural gas, came in for criticism from Len Richart of the Eco-Justice Collaborative.

He points out that destructive new “extreme” technologies like fracking and tar sands extraction are making additional sources of fossil fuels available, adding to carbon emissions when we should be reducing them.

“We really need a transitional plan,” Richart said.  “We’re going to be dependent on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, but there’s a big difference if we agree on a transition to renewables.”

He’s particularly skeptical of the “clean coal” technology that Obama supports.  “They talk about it as if it’s up and running, and that’s not the case at all.”  In the meantime, he said, coal continues to be mined and burned, contributing a third of the nation’s carbon emissions.

Working with the Heartland Coalfield Alliance, EJC sends delegations of local activists to learn about the impact of coal mining in central and southern Illinois, which includes destruction of farmland, natural areas, and entire communities, and groundwater pollution from coal slurry and unlined pools of coal ash and sludge.

Like tar sands oil, much of Illinois’s high-sulfur coal is being exported to developing countries – which Richart argues should put to rest the argument that “all-of-the-above” development is needed for “energy independence.”

 

Housing advocates seem unanimous in their top priority for Obama’s second term: replacing Edward DeMarco as interim director of the Federal Housing Finance Authority.  “We need someone there who’s looking out for homeowners and communities and not the bottom lines of banks,” said Liz Ryan Murray, policy director for National Peoples Action.

DeMarco has blocked Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which FHFA regulates and which control a huge chunk of the nation’s mortgages, from carrying out loan modifications with principal reductions to reflect the collapse of housing prices.   That’s a key step if the foreclosure crisis is to be stemmed.

In the Chicago area, the foreclosure rate has been up and down, said Katie Buitrago of the Woodstock Institute.  Last year several poor communities where foreclosures had been dropping saw sharp increases: up 60 percent in West Pullman, 25 percent in Englewood, she said.

If the employment situation doesn’t improve – and if long-term unemployment benefits are cut – foreclosures could continue at high levels, she said.

Obama tried to replace DeMarco, a Bush administration holdover, two years ago, but the appointment was held up in Congress.  If Congress won’t approve a replacement, Obama should made a recess appointment, Murray said.

Principal reduction has been a key proposal for housing groups since the start of the crisis, when they pushed for bankruptcy reform, a proposal that Obama supported and then backed away from.

The administration’s early efforts at foreclosure prevention were largely ineffective, in part because they sought voluntary participation by banks.  Mortgage services seemed to lack both the capacity and the interest to address the crisis on their own.

Recent settlements by state attorney generals and federal regulators have improved the framework, though according to Murray, “legal aid attorneys say the on-the-ground experience hasn’t changed dramatically.”

New servicer regulations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may help, establishing strict timetables for servicers to act on modification requests and ending “dual tracking,” in which homeowners on trial modifications were simultaneously foreclosed on.

The future of Fannie and Freddie, now in government receivership after being bailed out, is under debate. The agencies should be reformed “in a way that maintains wealth building opportunities for the low-wealth communities of color that were targeted by predatory lending and really hurt by foreclosures,” Buitrago said.

“Completely privatizing the housing market and handing it all back to Wall Street couldn’t be a worse idea,” Murray said.  “We’ve already seen what that would mean.”

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76-year-old woman fights Fannie Mae http://www.newstips.org/2013/01/76-year-old-woman-fights-fannie-mae/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/01/76-year-old-woman-fights-fannie-mae/#comments Tue, 15 Jan 2013 22:48:50 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6929 A 76-year-year-old disabled woman facing eviction by Fannie Mae will announce that she will not leave her home, as supporters hold a candlelight vigil tomorrow evening (Wednesday, January 16, 7 p.m., 2334 N. Mason).

Mary Bonelli, whose family has lived in the house in Belmont-Cragin since 1921, was current on mortgage payments when Fifth Third Bank’s online payment system stopped taking deductions from her account, said Sabrina Morey of Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction.

When  she became aware of the problem and contacted the bank, she was told it was too late, Morey said. Bonelli and her 83-year-old sister hired a lawyer who took $2,500 up front before dropping the case, she said.  Her home went into foreclosure last spring.

Fannie Mae acquired the mortage in September, but representatives there have refused to meet with Bonelli, Morey said.  She said supporters have written and petitioned Fannie Mae on Bonelli’s behalf.  At a court hearing last month, Fannie Mae lawyers told Bonelli that her home would go on the eviction list on January 16.

“I have no place else to go, and moving in my condition would be a nightmare,” said Bonelli, who has lymphoma.  “To see all the hard work that three generations of my family have put into our home slip away because of the bank’s mistake would be devastating.”

CUAFE is prepared to carry out an eviction blockade if the sherriff attempts to remove Bonelli, Morey said.

The group has organized numerous homeowners who say they were unfairly foreclosed on and are “occupying” their homes in defiance of eviction notices.  All of them have been able to remain in their homes; in one case a homeowner won a loan modification, Morey said.

She said eviction blockades in other cities have been “very successful.”

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Charge city demolitions ‘destroying our neighborhoods’ http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/charge-city-demolitions-destroying-our-neighborhoods/ Wed, 31 Oct 2012 22:59:26 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6732 The city’s program of demolishing vacant homes is just “creating more destruction in our neighborhoods” and not making areas any safer, according to leaders in impacted communities.

“There is no community imput or transparency,” said Charles Brown, a leader with Action Now.  “They are just coming in and creating more destruction in our neighborhoods.”

“Vacant lots are just as dangerous as vacant buildings,” said Brown, a retired police officer and Englewood resident.  “We need to build communities back up instead of knocking them down.”

He spoke as Mayor Emanuel announced the city has demolished the 200th home in what’s being billed as an anti-gang initiative.  There are over 15,000 vacant properties in Chicago.

“This top-down approach to the vacant building problems is just wiping out our neighborhoods,” said Action Now president Michelle Young.  “We want to bring families back into these homes and have the city invest in long-term solutions instead of quick fixes that don’t work.”

“Our biggest concern is the lack of transparency,” said Dan Kleinman, the group’s policy director.  He said Action Now has requested information from the city about buildings on the list to be demolished but has not received it.

“Why are these buildings being chosen for demolition?” he asked.  “Why weren’t they required to be secured under the vacant property ordinance?  Why wasn’t the option of revitalization considered?

“We don’t know because there isn’t any transparency,” he said.

Action Now is working on an ordinance to establish a Chicago Land Trust that could renovate vacant buildings into affordable rental homes.  (More on that here.)

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Warning on Social Security, Medicare cuts http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/warning-on-social-security-medicare-cuts/ Tue, 30 Oct 2012 00:43:23 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6723 Seniors, people with disabilities, and the poor shouldn’t be pushed over a “fiscal cliff” manufactured by politicians.

That’s the message of a coalition of senior, disability, community and labor organizations that is hosting an accountability sessions with local members of Congress, Tuesday, October 30, 4 p.m., at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington.

Representatives Danny Davis and Jan Schakowsky have confirmed their attendance, and others are expected, said Gary Arnold of Access Living.

Sponsors of the event include Access Living, Illinois Alliance of Retired Americans, IIRON, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, Jobs With Justice, and the Lakeview Action Coalition.

They’ll ask legislators to oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in any resolution of the impasse over the debt ceiling to be considered in Congress after the November 6 election.

Neither Democratic nor Republican proposals – nor automatic cuts set to go into effect if no deal is reached – are good options, said Tom Wilson of Access Living.

Democrats would reach deficit reduction goals with a mix of heavy budget cuts and increased taxes on the wealthy; Republicans have proposed only spending cuts.  A “sequestration” plan if no deal is reached would involve 8 percent across-the-board cuts in domestic and military spending.

“Any of the solutions they’re talking about would drive us right back into recession, throw a lot of people out of work, and send the economy into a downward spiral,” said Wilson.

He said for people with disabilities, sequestration would actually impact Medicaid less than either the Democratic or Republican proposals.

The coalition is calling on legislators to back the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for all taxpayers and a financial transaction tax that could raise billions of dollars, he said.

The groups are also backing Schakowsky’s Emergency Jobs Act (HR 2914) and the Principal Reduction Act (HR 3841), which would require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce principal on loans to underwater homeowners.

Those bills “would give millions of people the tools and resources to stay in their homes, get back to work, and contribute to their communities,” said Arnold.

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Rebuild neighborhoods by rehabbing vacant homes http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/rebuild-neighborhoods-by-rehabbing-vacant-homes/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/rebuild-neighborhoods-by-rehabbing-vacant-homes/#comments Wed, 24 Oct 2012 19:55:32 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6713 West Side residents will meet Thursday night to discuss a proposal from Action Now to establish a Chicago Housing Trust that would rehab vacant buildings as affordable rentals (Thursday, October 25, 6 p.m., Penn Elementary, 1616 S. Avers).

At a South Side meeting last week, residents spoke up about the problems associated with vacant properties.  Action Now leader Charles Brown told about seeing a man taking a young girl into a vacant building; Brown gathered a few neighbors and went to her rescue.

The group has opposed an “anti-violence initiative” by Mayor Emanuel under which over a hundred vacant homes have been demolished, instead proposing a public-private effort they’ve dubbed “Rebuild Chicago.”

“Why tear them down,” said Action Now leader Adeline Bracey.  “We don’t need any more vacant lots.”  She called for a moratorium on demolitions.  “Let’s look at the property and if it’s sound, why not rehab it?”

The group has revamped an earlier proposal and plans to introduce an ordinance calling for a Chicago Housing Trust that would accept donations of vacant buildings from banks and lend them at no cost to developers who would agree to provide affordable housing and hire local residents.

Banks and developers have expressed interest, said policy director Dan Kleinman.  Banks would get to remove negative equity from their portfolios and take advantage of tax write-offs, he said, and developers would be spared acquisition costs, enabling them to provide housing at lower cost.

“Let’s teach our young people a trade so they don’t need to stand on the street being harassed and arrested,” said Bracey.

“Our neighborhood has changed in the last 40 years,” said Brown.  “We want to bring it back to the way it used to be.”

Similar programs have been successful in Flint, Michigan, and Cleveland, Ohio, Kleinman said

The group is circulating an ordinance among aldermen and has met with the mayor’s office, he said.

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