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Occupying foreclosures

Abandoned homes being occupied in Belmont Cragin and Auburn Gresham on Tuesday – part of a national day of action called by Occupy Our Homes – underscore the failure of banks to deal with the foreclosure crisis.

In Belmont Cragin, Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction are moving two homeless sisters and their children into a single family home that was abandoned sometime after foreclosure was filed in 2009.  The group couldn’t determine whether a final disposition has been made on the property.

They think it could be one of the thousands of “red flag” properties, where banks and loan servicers “may choose to reduce the costs associated with a long-term vacant home by walking away from the foreclosure process instead of completing it” in order to evade the costs and legal reponsibilities of ownership, according to a Woodstock Institute report (see earlier post).

In Auburn-Gresham, kicking off its “Homes for the Holidays” drive, the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign is moving a family which lost its home to foreclosure into a home that was abandoned by a longtime resident after JP Morgan Chase refused to consider a loan modification.  The owner gave the keys to AEC, which like CAUFE has done signficant repairs on the building.

Foreclosures have continued to climb over the past two years, since the Obama administration promised to help millions of troubled homeowners.  But because their program allowed for voluntary participation by banks – instead of requiring institutions that had been bailed out to give affordable modifications to qualifying homeowners – it has helped only a small portion of those initially targeted.

Meanwhile lenders widely noted for being unresponsive to homeowners have now acknowledged extensive fraud in foreclosure filings.

In Austin, South Austin Coalition is taking over and boarding up an abandoned building that’s hosted extensive criminal activity less than a block from May Elementary School.  The building was foreclosed on by Citibank, said Elce Redmond of SAC.

“We’re going to go after the bank to pay for the boardup,” Redmond said.  “Longterm we want to pressure the banks to turn these homes over to community organizations and churches so we can rehab them and put families in them.”

“We have so many unemployed people and so many vacant properties,” said Willie JR Fleming of AEC.  “It’s obvious we need to put people to work rehabbing them so we can put families back in them.”

Fleming emphasizes that “we are enforcing the human right to housing.  We are not asking for human rights.  We are enforcing them.”

Occupy Our Homes reports similar actions “to stop and reverse foreclosures” in 25 cities on Tuesday, as “the Occupy movement joins with homeowners and people fighting for a place to live.”

Foreclosure and renters: banks break the law

Banks routinely violate state and federal laws protecting tenants in rental buildings in foreclosure, particularly in a “foreclosure belt” stretching across the South and West Sides, according to a new report.

Lenders and their agents “willfully ignore” laws that protect tenants in foreclosures and have “institutionalized in their practices the wholesale violation of tenants’ [legal] rights,” according to a report (pdf) from the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Summit to Discuss New CRA Rules

Banking executives and housing developers will tour three Chicago neighborhoods during a national summit on housing and banking this month, and FDIC director Thomas Curry will meet with community leaders and others to discuss new changes in community reinvestment regulations.

Buses will take conference participants to tour Belmont-Cragin, Lawndale, and Englewood on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 17, to see “what happens on the ground when neighborhoods get some kind of investment — and what happens when they don’t have resources and connections,” said Richard Muhammad of the National Training and Information Center, sponsor of the summit.

Curry will discuss new Community Reinvestment Act rules which were recently finalized by four regulatory agencies — the first time he has met with community groups to discuss the new regulations. Community reinvestment advocates were disappointed that regulators decreased reporting requirements for financial institutions with assets between $250 million and $1 billion by reclassifying them as “small” banks.

Chicago-based NTIC is credited with spearheading the campaign against redlining which won passage of CRA in 1977, led by the group’s founder, the late Gale Cincotta. Since then, CRA-regulated institutions have substantially increased lending in low and moderate income communities, Muhammad said.

Sessions at the summit will address insurance redlining, home ownership in African American communities, new developments in predatory lending, and outreach by financial institutions to immigrant communities — as well as what community organizers can do “in an age when your local bank is now the branch of an international conglomerate bank,” Muhammad said.

The Housing and Banking Summit takes place August 17 to 19 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker.

 



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