Mpls, St. Paul residents face the ‘ultimate challenge’ (from MN Spokesman-Recorder)
by Charles Hallman
Originally posted 11/4/2009
Lax legislation leaves homeowners, renters ill equipped to fight banks
Like Peter Finch’s character in the movie Network, some are mad as hell about the growing number of foreclosures and won’t take it anymore. During a Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout meeting October 28 at Sabathani Community Center, they especially directed their anger at banks and mortgage companies who seem hell-bent not to work with homeowners and tenants facing such action.
“The bank is the ultimate challenge to rein in the foreclosures,” attorney Peter Brown told the small crowd. He explained that current laws give banks and other financial companies that deal with mortgages the upper hand, and mortgage holders have no incentive to renegotiate with those who signed mortgages. Brown held up an expanding list of local homeowners now facing foreclosures as “exhibit A” to the people’s jury.
“All the banks know is money,” added Rosemary Williams. After a long fight, she finally was evicted in September from her longtime Minneapolis home due to foreclosure. Since then, Williams continues to fight, not only for herself, but for others as well.
“We are just fundraising for the ‘Minnesota five’ [Williams and four others who have been affected by foreclosure], and whoever else needs funding to get back into their property,” said Williams. “That is one of the reasons that I am traveling like I am,” she pointed out, briefly mentioning that she recently returned from a two-week overseas trip, speaking on the U.S. foreclosure crisis. She also participated in a Latin American women’s conference in Stockholm, Sweden, and a United Nations forum as well.
“People are very interested and very shocked at what is going on,” surmised Williams.
Time is almost up for Leslie Parks, another Minneapolis resident facing foreclosure. “We are angry as hell,” said the Minneapolis homeowner, who told the MSR last month that her three-generation home is in the final phases of foreclosure (“Local women fight loss of homes,” MSR, Oct. 15, 2009). She must raise $63,000 by November 30 to keep her home.
“We are trying desperately to come up with $63,000 that’s needed to redeem the house,” she stated. “Right now the house is in the redemption period, and November 30 is the end of the redemption period.”
The coalition during this year’s state legislative session had lobbied for a two-year moratorium on foreclosures and to require owners of foreclosed property to allow current occupants to remain and continue paying their lease amount. The Minnesota Legislature did pass such a measure, but it was later vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Parks argued that the legislators “won’t stand up to Pawlenty” and override his veto, and instead allow banks and mortgage companies to continue “stealing homes.”
“We tried numerous times to talk to the bank… They absolutely refuse to even listen to us,” admitted Parks. “The only thing they want to know is when are we going to pack.”
She hasn’t given up saving her home yet, but Parks knows she will need some help in doing so. “Maybe if someone could make a loan to either my mother or me,” she said. “But unfortunately because my mother has gone through foreclosure, the banks won’t touch her. And I went into deep debt trying to help my mother pay a double mortgage, so my credit went from great to awful.”
Parks told the crowd that a “blueprint of resistance” is needed. She pledged that if she is unable to come up with the money by the end of this month, “I have to save my mother’s home — I’ve been living there for 21 years. I have to resist. If it means going to jail, I’ll do that.”
Agreeing with Parks, Eddie Marcus of St. Paul stood up and told the audience that going to jail might be the only way to draw lawmakers’ attention to the foreclosure crisis. “These things have happened because we allowed them to happen,” he believes. “We have to have courage to stand up and really don’t take it [any] more. You have to make up your mind — I am not going to take it anymore.”
Participant Mick Kelly told the audience that beginning this month, he and other coalition members will start protesting at the State Capitol, beginning with the state budget forecast release later this month. They also plan to meet with state legislators and be present when the Minnesota Legislature begins its 2010 session.
“We are building a movement,” noted Kelly. “We are going to have one activity after another.”
Last week, it was reported that almost 200 foreclosed homes have been purchased by low-income persons through forgivable-loan programs in Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center. Eligible participants can get up to $10,000 for closing or down payment costs.
However, according to Terinda Lee, a 12-year renter in North Minneapolis, this might not be enough to eliminate the neighborhood blight created by foreclosures. In her neighborhood, for example, the banks that have taken over foreclosed properties “don’t fix them up enough and make them affordable,” she noted.
“All of us are entitled to basic things: education, health care, a career and housing,” said Marcus. “No power has the right to come up with a system to keep any of us out, but this is what has happened.
“As far as I am concerned, we all are entitled to homes and the kind of homes we desire,” he concluded. “I think the most powerful people to make these changes are the poor.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.