Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop Chicago Community Stories Mon, 19 Feb 2018 15:45:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Foreclosures and the black community Tue, 29 Oct 2013 17:57:25 +0000 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).

Two actions target Fannie Mae Tue, 04 Sep 2012 22:13:00 +0000 Four years after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were put under federal conservatorship, actions tomorrow and next Monday are targeting the agencies for blocking principal reduction in mortgage refinances.

On Wednesday, September 5, Occupy Chicago will rally at 5 p.m. at Fannie Mae’s office at 1 S. Wacker, where families facing eviction will speak out, and then march to President Obama’s campaign headquarters, 130 E. Randolph, where protestors will be chained together with balls representing mortgage debt.

It’s part of three days of actions targeting “Obama’s failures as president” and “how both Obama and Romney fail to represent the interests of the 99 Percent,” according to a Facebook announcement.

On Monday, September 10, local community groups joined by Occupy Our Homes groups from Minneapolis and Detroit will march from Daley Plaza at noon and rally in front of Fannie Mae (1 S. Wacker) at 1 p.m. and Freddie Mac (333 W. Wacker) at 2.

That protest is part of a national day of action against Fannie and Freddie by community groups working to stop foreclosures in several cities, said Stuart Schussler of Centro Autonomo of Albany ParkChicago Anti-Eviction Campaign is also participating.

Centro Autonomo protests at bank branches to support families in foreclosure who are seeking loan modifications. Principal reduction is a vital component of affordable loan mods, Schussler said.

“Sometimes we get a favorable response from the bank” that’s servicing the mortgage, but but if Fannie or Freddie holds the morgage – as they do in a large proportion of cases – “they’ll say it’s out of our hands,” he said.

Housing groups have been calling on Obama to replace Federal Home Financing Agency interim director Edward DeMarco, who has refused to allow Fannie or Freddie to do principal reduction – even after the Treasury Department belatedly embraced the idea.

“In the bigger picture we need some really profound changes in order to make good on housing as a human right, but in the short and medium term, DeMarco and the FHFA are in the way of getting help for a lot of people who are in trouble,” Schussler said.

The center does “community building” through popular education, health programs, and workers cooperatives, Schussler said.

Occupy groups have protested at the Republican and Democratic conventions, seeking to divert attention from the “horserace” to “the issues that matter to people,” said David Orlikoff of Occupy Chicago.

He points out that while the FBI estimates that financial institutions committed fraud in a large proportion of subprime loans, financial fraud prosecutions have dropped steadily under the Obama administration and are now at a 20-year low.

King Day: Occupy the Fed, foreclosures, schools Sat, 14 Jan 2012 01:29:58 +0000 The civil rights movement, the Occupy movement, and community organizations will come together for a series of events marking Martin Luther King’s birthday this week, including a demonstration Monday at the Federal Reserve led by African American clergy including Rev. Jesse Jackson.

At the time of his assassination, King was organizing an “occupation” of Washington D.C., and after his death thousands of people occupied Resurrection City there from May 12 to June 24, 1968, demanding jobs, housing and an economic bill of rights.

In other King Day activities, housing rights groups are stepping up the drive to occupy foreclosures, and teachers and community groups are demonstrating against school “turnarounds.”

Over a thousand community activists are expected for an Occupy the Dream event (Sunday, January 15 at 3 p.m. at People’s Church, 941 W. Lawrence), where elected officials will be called on to support jobs and tax reform, including closing corporate tax loopholes and instituting a financial transaction tax.

It’s sponsored by IIRON, a regional organizing network that includes Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, Northside POWER, and the Northwest Indiana Federation. Occupy Chicago has endorsed the event.

“We are organizing in the tradition of the civil rights movement,” said Rev. Dwight Gardner of Gary, president of the Northwest Indiana Federation.

“In Dr. King’s very last sermon, he warned us not to sleep through a time of great change like Rip Van Winkle,” he said. “This is a moment of great change and we must put our souls in motion to occupy his dream.”

At the Fed: National Day of Action

Monday’s action at the Federal Reserve (Jackson and LaSalle, January 16, 3 p.m.) is part of a national day of action to “Occupy the Fed” by the Occupy the Dream campaign, with African American church leaders moblizing multicultural, interfaith rallies in 13 cities.  They’ll be emphasizing racially discriminatory practices by banks which have resulted in high foreclosure rates, as well as the issue of student debt.

“There needs to be economic equality, there needs to be jobs for all, there needs to be opportunities for the next generation,” said Rev. Jamal Bryant of Occupy the Dream.

“It’s consistent with the Poor People’s Campaign of holding people accountable who have benefited from the labor of working people and used their influence to create inequality,” said Rev. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago coordinator of the effort.

On Tuesday, Northside POWER and other groups will visit Bank of America (135 S. LaSalle) at 3:30 p.m. to demand help for a North Side family facing foreclosure; the bank has refused mediation for the family, which has applied for the Hardest Hit foreclosure relief program, said Kristi Sanford.

They’ll also visit Attorney General Lisa Madigan, demanding she withdraw from the proposed settlement of the robosigning fraud case by state attorney generals and the U.S. Department of Justice.  The settlement would fine banks “a pittance” and absolve them of all liability, Sanford said.  Attorney generals in New York and California have withdrawn.

Sanford said an effort to occupy a foreclosed home and launch an eviction resistance campaign is also underway.

Working the grassroots against eviction

Meanwhile, groups organizing against foreclosure and eviction have come together in the national network Occupy Our Homes, and they’ll go door-to-door Sunday and Monday, reaching out to families facing foreclosure and their neighbors.

Training sessions for canvassers will be held on Sunday, January 15 at 10 a.m. in Albany Park (at Centro Autonomo, 3630 W. Lawrence) and Monday at 10 a.m. on the South Side (Sankofa Center, 1401 E. 75th) and the West Side (a foreclosed property at 2655 W. Melvina and the Third Unitarian Church, 311 N. Mayfield), and volunteers will canvass those areas from 11 to 3 on the respective days.

Homeowners will be connected with legal resources and encouraged to consider staying in their homes after foreclosure, said Loren Taylor of Occupy Our Homes.

The foreclosure process is unfairly stacked toward lenders, banks have engaged in “massive, massive fraud,” and the banks which refuse to help homeowners have received government bailouts in the trillions of dollars, Taylor said.

Participating groups include the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, and the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, which has worked with renters in foreclosed buildings.

School marches mark King’s Chicago legacy

Also Monday, demonstrations against educational inequality – and against school “turnarounds” – will take place in areas made famous by Martin Luther King’s 1966 Chicago campaign.

At 10:30 a.m., the Chicago Teachers Union and community allies will march for education justice and “quality schools for all” at Marquette Elementary, 6550 S. Richmond, just south of the park where King was hit by a brick while marching for fair housing in 1966.

Today the school is 99 percent black and Latino – and slated for a “turnaround” by Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL). CTU argues that all schools should have small class sizes, a well-rounded curriculum, and supportive services.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Blocks Together and other supporters of Casals Elementary, 3501 W. Potomac, will go door-to-door to inform neighbors of parent efforts to stop the transfer of that school to AUSL.

And at 1 p.m. on Monday, North Lawndale residents including members of Action Now will hold a press conference and march from Dvorak Elementary, 3615 W. 16th, past the site where King lived in Lawndale in 1966, to Herzl Elementary, 3711 W. Douglas.  They’re opposing Herzl’s “turnaround” by AUSL – and they fear Dvorak is next, said Aileen Kelleher of Action Now.

Parents maintain that CPS neglects neighborhood schools serving low-income minority children, setting them up for failure so they can be turned over to AUSL or charter schools, Kelleher said

Occupying foreclosures Wed, 07 Dec 2011 00:12:42 +0000 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.”

Residents fight Cabrini Rowhouse evictions Mon, 12 Sep 2011 20:54:00 +0000 Cabrini residents vowed to fight a CHA order evicting 33 rowhouse tenants, citing a previous federal ruling barring relocation at Cabrini without first negotiating with the local advisory council.

“There are going to be legal challenges, there are going to be protests, there are going to be a lot of things,” said Carole Steele, president of the Cabrini-Green Local Advisory Council.

At the end of August, CHA gave 33 families remaining in non-rehabbed units of the Frances Cabrini Rowhouses 180 days to relocate.  About 150 of 586 units in the 1942 red-brick low-rise development were rehabbed in 2008 and 2009, and these will remain occupied.

Steele said the LAC was informed of the action in a meeting a couple of hours before the notices went out.

In 2008 a federal court barred CHA from evicting 385 families at Cabrini, citing an existing agreement that requires negotiations with the residents’ council over the relocation process, said Richard Wheelock of the Legal Assistance Foundation, who represents the Cabrini-Green LAC.

In that case, CHA had sent letters to the residents in 2004 giving them 180 days to find new housing.

Once again, CHA has given residents 180 days without negotiating with the LAC, Wheelock said.  “We went through all that litigation – and a federal court found CHA was in violation of the relocation rights contract – and now they are doing exactly the same thing,” he said.

Safety concerns

CHA cited high vacancy rates and crime levels in the section of the rowhouses being vacated.  Wheelock called that rationale “ironic” since “many families will end up in much worse conditions.”

Former residents who were moved to Wentworth Gardens at the end of last year, when Cabrini-Green’s last highrise was demolished, report high levels of violence, said J.R. Fleming.  The former Cabrini resident, now a leader of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, has family members who were moved to Wentworth.

He says “there’s a lot of tension” between Wentworth residents and Cabrini relocatees, and it’s resulted in fights and a series of attacks on women and children from Cabrini.  The relocatees “are fearing for their lives,” he said.  “There have been big community meetings where the Wentworth residents say, get these people out of here.”

“How can CHA say they’re motivated by concerns over safety when they are moving women and children into harm’s way?” he said.

New Wentworth residents are seeking housing vouchers to move out – but such vouchers are generally only accepted in high-poverty, high-crime areas, Fleming said.

“This is just another situation of public housing residents being pushed around, and we are competely tired of it,” said Steele.

Rehab plans on hold

Looming large is the question of the future of the rowhouses.

They were among ten “traditional,” mainly low-rise, developments, including Altgelt Gardens, Dearborn Homes and Lathrop Homes, deemed “viable” by HUD in a late-1990s assessment; CHA pledged to rehab them for public housing residents.

Under its original Moving To Work Plan in 2000, CHA promised to rehab all of the Cabrini Rowhouses’ 586 units as public housing, projecting completion in 2004.  Work didn’t start until 2008 and was suspended in 2009, but CHA’s 2010 annual plan projected completion by 2013.

This year’s plan, however, reports that rehabilitation has been put on hold. According to the report, the move came at the request of the Gautreaux court (overseeing a 1966 case requiring CHA to desegregate), with Gautreaux counsel Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI) joining discussions “to explore the possibility of incorporating future plans for Frances Cabrini Rowhouses into a broader planning process that involves the input of community stakeholders.”

In a 2009 report, BPI argued that CHA’s plan for rehabbing traditional developments as public housing “runs counter” to the goal of “economic integration.”  The group suggested converting those developments to mixed-income communities and recommended steps to “dimish the size of the public housing populations” currentlly living there.  BPI also argued that “the favorable location” of the Cabrini Rowhouses “suggests the possibility of moving directly into full mixed-income.”

In addition, one area resident reports that condo associations in Cabrini mixed-income developments have been agitating for the closing of the rowhouses.

Mixed-income projects stalled

The problem is that “mixed-income development has ground to a halt,” Wheelock points out.  “Nothing is happening.”  And no one can predict when the economy and housing market might rebound.  Increasingly, it looks to be a long way off.

Meanwhile thousands of displaced CHA residents are still waiting for replacement housing.  Financing for mixed-income communities isn’t available, while federal funding for rehab of public housing is.

“They said they were going to rehab everything, and that’s what we’re going to hold them to,” said Steele.  “The LAC’s position is:  you had a ten-year plan, you asked for an additional five years, it’s fifteen years and you haven’t begun to build the housing.”

CHA’s failure to expeditiously fill vacancies at the rowhouses (none have been filled since 2000) violates its original agreement with HUD, and the agency’s failure to rehab the rowhouses is “at odds with numerous written commitments made over the years by CHA officials,” an attorney for CHA residents’ Central Advisory Council told Residents Journal.

Steele points out that CHA is still 400 units short of meeting its commitment in a 2000 consent decree to replace housing for residents of the first Cabrini-Green buildings that were demolished.  Indeed, last month a federal judge warned with city and CHA that they could be in violation of the 2000 order if they don’t start moving to meet replacement housing commitments.

“Their promise to build mixed-income communities in a timely fashion for people to return to is not a promise they have kept,” said Fleming.

“Completing rehab of the rowhouses could add 400 units,” said Wheelock. “Where else are you going to find that?”

Slow-motion demolition?

Unlike Cabrini-Green high rises which have been demolished, the rowhouses are “human-scale” and “have stood the test of time,” according to LISC.

CHA says it’s still considering options for the rowhouses, but Wheelock suspects their intention is to demolish them.

He says the LAC wrote CHA in May asking them to adequately secure vacant rowhouses so that rehab would remain an option, but received no reply. (CHA did not respond to a request for comment.)

“CHA has done nothing to preserve vacated units,” he said.  “The inventory is being destroyed.  When it comes time to decide they’re going to say, oh my, the rowhouses are too far gone for rehab.”

“When CHA boarded up with windows, they didn’t board them up from the outside, they boarded them up from the inside,” said Joe Peery, a former Cabrini high-rise resident now living in Cabrini mixed-income.  “When it rains the water gets in.  You get water damage and mold.

“They’re just destroying the property,” he said.

‘A new Jim Crow’

A long perspective gives Peery a nuanced view of public housing issues.  He remembers when the entire area around Cabrini was mostly poor and black – supplying cheap labor to industry then located just south of Division Street.  He remembers when maintenance workers were let go and repairs stopped being done after drastic budget cuts in the Reagan era.

He’s not too enamored of the concept of mixed-income communities, either.  An array of disparate rules for rich and poor means the reality is “a new Jim Crow, a new apartheid,” he says.  “I have to take drug tests, they don’t; I can’t barbecue, they can; I can’t have family gatherings, they can.”

And condo associations are eager to evict public housing tenants for minor infractions, he said.   A large number of evictions under CHA’s draconian policies have taken place in mixed-income housing, where residents have even fewer rights than in public housing developments, according to the Chicago Reporter.

The onerous requirements for public housing residents are predicated on the federal assistance they receive, but Peery points out that market-rate condos received federal subsidies too, and several private developers have received millions of dollars in bailouts from the city and CHA.

CHA’s Plan For Transformation “is a scam,” he said.  “They’re cutting everything, and they figure let’s just get rid of it all.

“We’re in a depression.  I’ve never seen this many homeless people.  Homeless people are dying in the streets.  Wouldn’t this be the time for public housing?”

Residents Journal reports that plans for the Cabrini Rowhouses will be one topic at a public comment session on CHA’s annual plan, Tuesday, September 13, 6 p.m. at CHA administrative offices, 60 E. Van Buren, 9th floor.

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Chicago In These Times Wed, 22 Jun 2011 20:38:10 +0000 As a national publication based in Chicago, In These Times often provides better coverage of the local scene than its rivals – but this week’s issue seems particularly noteworthy on that account.

There’s an interview with Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence on why she’s joining the flotilla challenging the Israeli blockade of Gaza later this month; she also shares her views on Libya, Afghanistan, and the proliferation of drone technology.

There’s Kari Lydersen’s article (not yet online) on the growing relationship between steelworkers here and in Mexico, boosted by connections between the century-old Mexican community around Chicago mills and workers in Mexico. Blanca Morales came here from Monterrey when she was five and ended up working at Inland Steel for 25 years; now she’s part of Women of Steel, providing support for Mexican strikers who face brutal retaliation.

Steelworkers here point out that supporting steelworkers in Mexico – where the average manufacturing wage is under $4 an hour – will help “level the playing field” and reduce pressure on wages and working conditions here.

Yana Kunichoff reports on the Unemployed Action Center organized by Chicago Jobs With Justice, which is planning a partnership with the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign to fight foreclosures and evictions.

Theo Anderson highlights the work of Protestants for the Common Good, lobbying for legislation to help ex-offenders, and Interfaith Workers Justice, fighting wage theft, as examples of “the re-emergence of the religious left as a powerful political force.”

Stephanie Shonekan of Columbia College shares her reflections on living in Naperville: “We found great neighbors and formed lifelong friendships with people whom I would never have known in my other walks of life.  And the greatest lesson learned has come from the reflections on race inspired by the very acute experience of being a black person in a privileged white neighborhood.”

There are offerings from two of Chicago’s journalistic greats: David Moberg with another go at how unions can save America, and Salim Muwakkil on the controversy over Manning Marable’s new biography of Malcolm X.

Finally there’s Chris Lehmann writing about the depature of Oprah Winfrey from daytime television, and why “the grinding spectacle of Oprah’s farewell felt much more like an infomercial for feeling something, anything, rather than an actual outpouring of human emotion.”