After a year and a half of on-the-ground anti-foreclosure organizing with homeowners publicly standing up and fighting the banks' abuse, the Minnesota legislature passed the Homeowner Bill of Rights almost unanimously--61-1 in the Senate and 123-0 in the House. National analysts are calling this legislation the strongest Homeowner Bill of Rights in the country. This victory shows that the community pressure Occupy Homes MN has helped to build--from grassroots organizing to the hearing rooms at the Capitol--can force legislatures to take steps toward holding Wall Street accountable. This legislation does not solve the housing crisis, but it does enforce basic protections against some of the banks’ worst practices.
The Homeowner Bill of Rights:
Requires mortgage servicers to offer loan modifications to all eligible homeowners
Puts a full stop to dual tracking, the process of foreclosing on someone while they are in the loan modification process
Allows homeowners to take their servicer to court to stop or reverse the foreclosure if the servicer fails to comply
Covers attorneys’ fees for prevailing homeowners, and
Allows a homeowner to submit a loan modification up to one week before the sheriff’s sale to halt the foreclosure (stronger than new federal regulations which will require 37 days)
Passing the Homeowner Bill of Rights required an enormous grassroots effort from Occupy Homes MN, Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, Jewish Community Action, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, and ISAIAH. The struggle of Rose McGee, a Golden Valley homeowner fighting her wrongful foreclosure, became the inspiration for the bill. Powerful testimony from homeowners like Rose and Monique White helped pass the bill through its first two committees. But then Senator Jim Metzen, a DFL banker who chairs the commerce committee, refused to hear the bill until the bank lobby agreed to it, which they did not. After our homeowners occupied Metzen’s office, Metzen agreed to hear a different foreclosure bill that was pre-approved by bankers. However, when it came to the floor of the Senate, that bill was strengthened to include most of the components of the original Homeowner Bill of Rights, except mandatory mediation. The pressure we generated caused the banks to back down from opposing meaningful legislation.
Foreclosed homeowners occupy Senator Metzen's office demanding a meeting. They were eventually evicted from his office under threat of arrest.
Minnesota's Homeowner Bill of Rights was modeled off similar legislation in California, which went into effect in January. Initial reports from California show a dramatic decrease in foreclosures since the bill took effect--foreclosure filings were down 51.4% in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the previous quarter, though filings are now starting to rise modestly.
“Now no one in the state of Minnesota will have to be dealt the unfair hand of dual tracking like I was,” said Rose McGee, who last week won a mortgage modification from Fannie Mae and CitiMortgage after a year-long battle. “I will be staying in my home, but nobody should have to fight this hard for something so simple. The Homeowner Bill of Rights is a small step towards making sure no one else has to go through such an arduous journey.”
While the Minnesota Homeowner Bill of Rights should rightfully be called a victory for the 99%, it is still too early to assess how much of an impact the new bill will have on the housing crisis. One important component of the original bill--mandatory mediation--was stricken after the bank lobby objected to it. Mandatory mediation has been supported by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and is modeled after Minnesota's own Farmer-Lender Mediation Act which helped as many as 14,000 farmers save their land during the farm crisis in the 1980s.
The federal government has still not imposed significant new regulations on the banks after the economic collapse of 2008. Banks like Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase are still bundling mortgages and selling them to investors for a profit. After U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder came under fire in March for his comments that the banks that crashed the economy were “too big to jail,” foreclosed homeowners and organizers from around the country converged at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. this week demanding the Obama administration show the banks consequences for their actions. Holder is now backpedaling from those comments, but has yet to prosecute any bankers.
2014 will mark the 80-year anniversary of a statewide moratorium on all foreclosures in the State of Minnesota. During the Great Depression, thousands of residents in communities across the state organized powerful movements and mass demonstrations which pressured the legislature to intervene in the foreclosure crisis and stop all foreclosures for two years. Occupy Homes MN is working to organize the first Eviction Free Zone in the country, creating an entire neighborhood standing up and resisting the abuses of the big banks and the injustices of the housing crisis. These on-the-ground organizing efforts combined with strategic political pressure will help Occupy Homes MN effect policy changes that will hold Wall Street and the big banks accountable to those most impacted by the economic crisis.
The Homeowner Bill of Rights is a small but important step in the struggle for housing justice. The bill is not a moratorium, and will not automatically stop all foreclosures, nor will it address the demand of principal reduction by forcing banks to re-write mortgages to today’s market value. But as we keep fighting, the Homeowner Bill of Rights could be the first chapter in the new story of communities organizing to address the gross economic inequality in our society.
March 22, 1933: Farmers rally in St. Paul for a foreclosure moratorium--which legislators granted.
December 6, 2012: march in Minneapolis for national Occupy Homes day of action.
URGENT: yesterday Jaymie Kelly received a summons to eviction court May 30. After her redemption period ended April 24, Chase Bank promised to delay her eviction at least 30 days and give another update May 28. This eviction summons comes as a slap in the face of that agreement. Chase is not returning her calls.
Jaymie has lived in her neighborhood her entire life. Her neighbors in the Eviction Free Zone stand with her. It is ludicrous that Chase would refuse to work with someone who has clearly already paid for her home five times over. As the anniversary of the Cruz house evictions draws near, we are stronger than ever. Jaymie shall not be moved.
As the Attorney General investigates, there are three things you can do NOW.
1. Call Chase Bank CEO Jamie Dimon’s office at 212-270-1111. Demand they keep their word and call off the eviction.
Here’s a sample script:
“Hi, my name is _______ and I’m calling from _________. I’m calling to demand you keep your word and call off Jaymie Kelly’s eviction. Jaymie has lived on her block her entire life and paid for her home five times over. She has the support of her neighbors in the Eviction Free Zone. Chase should be keeping its promises and working with its customers, not throwing them on the streets.”
Then, let us know how it went on Facebook.
2. Sign Jaymie’s petition, if you haven’t already done so.
3. Mark your calendar to come pack the courtroom for Jaymie on Thursday, May 30 at 8 am.
SHARE this image to spread the word. This is an Eviction Free Zone. We shall not be moved.
One month ago, Paula Medlock, Sergio Ceballos and Jaymie Kelly, three residents in the Eviction Free Zone of South Minneapolis, banded together and launched a campaign against JP Morgan Chase Bank to stay in their homes. Thanks to all of your phone calls and petition signatures in support, Chase executives are working with Paula and announced intention to work with Sergio, and permanently delayed his eviction. Jaymie Kelly still anxiously waits for an answer, and she needs your help!
After Jaymie’s redemption period ended on April 24th, Chase delayed eviction proceedings for one month but has not made any offers to negotiate a solution that will keep Jaymie in the community she’s lived in her entire life.
“If Chase has a proven commitment to the community like they advertise, why won’t they work with me, as a lifetime member of the Powderhorn community?” Jaymie said. She is still waiting on Chase to negotiate despite having paid $450,000 over 30 years--for a home currently valued at $81,000. She will soon face imminent eviction.
Can you call Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of Chase Bank, and ask him to make a deal with Jaymie?
You can call him at 212-270-1111. Here's a sample script:
"Hi, my name is _________ and I'm calling from _______. I'm glad that Chase is working out negotiations with Paula and Sergio, and I'm calling to demand they do the same for Jaymie Kelly. Jaymie has lived in her home for 30 years and already paid 5 times its market value. It's time for JP Morgan Chase to start cleaning up the housing crisis it helped create, and stop kicking people like Jaymie Kelly out of their communities."
Jamie Dimon, the CEO and Chairman of JP Morgan Chase, stands in the way of any negotiation. Dimon is one of the highest paid Wall Street executives. Every business day, Jamie Dimon earns the market value of Jaymie Kelly’s home. His bank grossed $110 billion last year, and received $35 billion in federal TARP funding. In addition, under Dimon’s leadership, JP Morgan Chase is facing a myriad of federal investigations and scandals.
“Those numbers are disgusting. Jamie Dimon is the personification of Wall Street’s casino style capitalism, where working class people like Jaymie Kelly are forced to line the pockets of the decadent fat cats that crashed the economy,” said neighbor and Occupy Homes organizer Ginger Jentzen.
Call Jamie and tell him you stand with Main Street, not Wall Street! 212-270-1111.
Jaymie stands with 9 other homeowners refusing to move in the Central and Powderhorn neighborhoods of South Minneapolis as a part of the Eviction Free Zone. “Chase will deal with me, and it’s going to be a fair deal, because of all your support. This is my home, my neighborhood, my community,” Jaymie said.