Oakland residents call for freeze on foreclosures

on August 15, 2012

Oakland residents converged Tuesday on an East Oakland street that has been blighted by foreclosures, calling for a freeze on foreclosures until the Homeowners Bill of Rights comes into effect in January, 2013. California Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law on July 2, which and will prevent banks from forcing families from their homes while they are still negotiating mortgages settlements.

Chanting slogans and carrying placards, at least 35 residents and homeowners demanded that the City of Oakland be declared a foreclosure-free zone until the Homeowners Bill of Rights comes into effect. Among other consumer protections, the bill will require banks to provide mortgage holders with a single point of contact when they are negotiating their loans or loan modifications, as opposed to the current situation in which homeowners say they have been bounced from one customer service agent to another. Banks and lenders would also be required to give a clear explanation to mortgage holders and borrowers when they deny requests for loan modifications.

The bill would also end the current practice known as “dual tracking,” in which banks and lending institutions can proceed with action to foreclose on a home at the same time as they actively engage a homeowner in negotiations to repay their mortgage.

“Even if people get the modifications, there still is a possibility of them losing their homes,” said Katt Hoban, an organizer with advocacy group the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) which organized the protest.

The protest was held in the Maxwell Park neighborhood of East Oakland, a neighborhood that the group says has been scarred by foreclosures in recent months. In particular, the venue was chosen to save the home of retired postal worker Lola Daniels, 62, who is at the verge of losing her home on Maxwell Street over a $360,000 mortgage to Bank of America and OneWest (IndyMac).

Daniels’ story has touched many residents in the neighborhood, who say she was forced to retire early from her job with the postal service due to a health condition that has placed her on dialysis at least three days a week.  In addition to her early retirement and illness, Daniels supports a disabled son.  

“We are calling on the city to take action and declare Oakland a foreclosure free-zone till the Homeowners Bill of Rights comes into effect in January,” said Yvone Standford, Daniels’ sister, who was among the protesters. “There are a lot of people that are in jeopardy of losing their homes right now.”

“There are so many foreclosures that are in the pipeline and this is what has forced me to get involved with ACCE,” Standford continued. “I saw that my sister was in trouble. She never defaulted on her payments until health problems forced her to go into early retirement.”

A charred home on Kingsland Avenue, across the circle from Mason and Daniels’ houses.

At least four houses on Maxwell Street, all within 500 feet of each other, have either been foreclosed on or are at the verge of foreclosure, including a foreclosed house at the corner of Kingsland Avenue that caught fire and resulted in one fatality in July.

Two houses down from Daniels’ house is a home belonging to Patricia Mason, which is in danger of being foreclosed upon. Protester Debi Mason said her sister, a retired teacher, owns the house. She said that her sister, also a Bank of America client, has been fighting to keep her house and several auction dates for the house have passed, with yet another auction set for September 24.

“I do believe that this auction is not going to go through either,” Debi Mason said. “They have tried to auction it several times and the day has come and it has been pushed back. We would like to bring more focus to what it is that the Bank of America is doing.”

In the meantime, plywood scaffolding and boarded up windows punctuate Maxwell Street, a trend that residents say has cast a somber mood on the neighborhood.  “Many families have packed up in the middle of the night and left,” said Debi Mason. “Foreclosed houses just look a little different. They are boarded up with plywood, have bare maintenance and [are] fitted with the cheapest windows they can find. They have lost their old character.”  

One of the houses that has been foreclosed on on Maxwell Street undergoes renovations.

More than 10,000 Oakland Oakland homeowners have lost their homes to foreclosures since 2007, according to ACCE. “West Oakland has a plethora of foreclosed homes that have been bought by investors,” said Hoban. “So many of those houses are going to investors, and we are trying to get the banks to back off on foreclosures until the Homeowners Bill of Rights comes into effect.”

Many residents have joined the ACCE  group in an effort to bring themselves up to speed with the legal complexities that often cloud corporate communications on foreclosures.  “At least the Homeowners Bill of Rights gives you some hope that, you’re not going to just have to pack in the night and leave,” said Debi Mason, “that the sheriff is not around the bend. The banks are unresponsive. You can’t really call a banker and say ‘Can you help me?’ The bill will really help people.”

 

6 Comments

  1. Mitch on August 15, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Can you please update this article with information as to how a 62 yr old has $360,000 left on a home mortgage?

    My assumption is that she used her home as an ATM 5-7 years ago and spent the cash.

    However, I will withhold judgment until you can contact this woman and ask why she has a $360,000 mortgage at the age of 62.



  2. Vonna on August 15, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Mitch, you sound like a real jackass. Statistics now show that one of the largest groups now suffering from foreclosures happens to be seniors. There could be many reasons why a person took equity out of their homes and it is really none of your business. A lot of seniors were hard working long time residents in their neighborhoods and always paid their mortgages and bills on time. In a lot of cases illnesses caused them to loose income and they found themselves in financial trouble. You are wrong to make assumptions and judgements when you do not know what you are talking about and you need to keep your opinion to yourself. No one is asking you for anything and you need to keep your mouth shut if you do not know what you are talking about.



    • mitch on August 18, 2012 at 7:24 pm

      No one has answered the question:

      Why does a 62 year old woman have a 360,000 mortgage on a home?

      This is the problem.

      Everyone wants to spread blame, and no one wants to accept responsibility.

      Pathetic!



      • Vonna on August 19, 2012 at 2:23 pm

        Mitch,

        I am afraid that you are the one that is pathetic. Most of the people that now find themselves in financial trouble do take responsiblity for their situation. They are not asking for a handout from anyone. They are just asking for the same chance banks received. The banks were bailed out when they made so-called financial mistakes. Did they ever admit to any wrong doing or suffer any consequences? Some of the banks did not even need the bailout, but they took the money anyway. They have all come out with record profits. The bottom line is as I said in my earlier comment, it is none of your business as to why a 62 year old has a large mortgage. No one is asking you for anything and you need to keep your negative comments to yourself.



      • Gwen on August 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm

        I’ll tell you why a 62 year old woman could have that much of a mortgage on their home.

        I’m 70 and I worked all my life, starting at 13 in the fields to buy school clothes.I graduated from college, raised 4 children, but worked as well. I was an electrician, so made what many would call lots of money, but in the last few years before my retirement, my annuity from my union began to go down from over $400,000 to under $200,000 from the dot com bust of the ’90’s. The word, everywhere was, don’t put any more money in the stock market, be smart and put it in real estate, that’s why I and at least 20,000,000 others (probably more)took all of our life savings, and put everything we could in real estate, so as not to go totally broke. More money all the time was needed to make ends meet, to help adult kids who had high college loans, low paying jobs, etc. get homes. We were all told it was fine, and real estate would go up so much we could sell later and pay down our own home. Some people were on to the bubble before others, so took out the money on their homes, for the future. Those are a few reasons. But why aren’t you asking why the banksters received all their money back in the bail out, (over 20 trillion of our tax money!) and now want our homes? No you’d rather complain about us old folks who just want to keep above water for our selves and our children and grandchildren. Please stop blaming the victims. Rethink, please! Gwen



        • Katie on August 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm

          Right on, Gwen and Vonna! Scrutiny belongs with the banks, and people who want to stay in their homes should be able to. Period.



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