After Monique White confronted US Bank CEO Richard Davis at their shareholders’ meeting in Minneapolis last year, she won a hard-fought loan modification--but US Bank decided this year to move their shareholders’ meeting to Boise, Idaho. So St. Paul homeowner Ann Haines traveled alongside Minnesota community leaders to attend the annual meeting in Boise. Haines, who was foreclosed upon in 2011, was sent the wrong paperwork after requesting help with her mortgage and her home was foreclosed on just a few months later.
At the shareholder meeting Ann confronted Richard Davis, president and CEO of US Bank, with the clear facts of her case--she paid her mortgage until US Bank told her to stop, saying that would help her get a loan modification, and on several occasions she found a realtor had broken into her house--and highlighted the emotional investment Ann and her family have in their home. “We’ve laughed, cried, fought, hurt and celebrated in our home. And I have been told this is not my home.”
While Ann had the floor at the meeting, she also appealed directly to Davis to work with her and other homeowners who are struggling and support fair housing legislation in Minnesota. Minnesotans for a Fair Economy and Occupy Homes MN have been working to pass legislation dubbed the “Homeowners’ Bill of Rights” that would help lessen the impact of the housing crisis on Minnesotans. Advocates are pushing for strong foreclosure legislation this session to help homeowners like Ann by requiring mandatory mediation and private right of action, the right to sue banks for wrongful foreclosure.
Davis promised Ann a meeting with the same senior vice-president who renegotiated Monique's loan last year. Ann’s neighborhood in greater Frogtown has been one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Minnesota and is often referred to as “ground zero” of the housing crisis.
Despite the increasing evidence exposing fraudulent behavior and two national settlements with the nation’s 10 largest lending institutions and a pending lawsuit brought by Haines, US Bank and Freddie Mac continue to push for the unnecessary eviction of Ann and her family.
Residents in the house for over 13 years, Haines and her three children have created a home that offers friends and family a safe, comfortable place to seek refuge from the stresses and tensions of everyday life.
Just a few blocks from her home amongst vacant and condemned properties is the home of Caylin Crawford, another homeowner who was fraudulently foreclosed on by US Bank and Freddie Mac after US Bank told her to stop paying her mortgage. In September, Crawford launched an Occupy Homes MN campaign and, a few days later, received an unprecedented settlement offer from Freddie Mac which was finalized this week.
As the fraud embedded in the foreclosure crisis becomes more and more exposed, homeowners are taking a stand to protect their homes and their neighborhoods. Haines, acting on behalf of her community and every Minnesota homeowner, ended her appeal by saying, “We made that house our home and I know where there is a homeowner, there is stability, and where there is stability there is a city that offers pride, safety and the desire to be part of a community. Why take that away from people who are making our city a better place to live for all?”
Ann Haines has an active campaign with Occupy Homes MN and will be hosting a public “Make a Mother’s Day” Foreclosure Free BBQ at her home at 1311 Seminary Ave, St. Paul on Sunday, May 12th at 2:00pm.
Sign Ann's petition for her home here: http://start2.occupyourhomes.org/petitions/us-bank-and-freddie-mac-give-ann-haines-a-fair-deal
Occupy Homes MN welcomes the news that President Obama plans to name a permanent replacement for Ed DeMarco as a permanent director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The nomination of Rep. Mel Watt, which must be approved by the Senate, came after a 16-month national campaign led by New Bottom Line urging the president to replace Ed DeMarco as acting director.
John Vinje, then fighting his Freddie Mac foreclosure in Bloomington, takes the bullhorn at a rally on Ed DeMarco's Silver Spring, Md. lawn in September 2012.
"This is a start, but I don't think the battle ends until the people get what they need and deserve--a fair deal and the right to stable housing," said David Cruz, whose family made headlines last year after 39 arrests took place as neighbors defended his home from a wrongful Freddie Mac foreclosure. "We can start with principal reduction and allowing Fannie and Freddie to sell homes back to previous owners who are willing and able to pay. We have to keep pressure up to get a new acting director immediately without waiting for the Senate to act. As time is wasting more people are losing their homes."
“Today’s victory shows that when we fight together, we can win not only individual home negotiations, but also policy change,” said Caylin Crawford, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN who yesterday finalized an unprecedented settlement with Freddie Mac that will keep her in her home. Caylin was arrested with four other homeowners from around the country in an action interrupting DeMarco’s Congressional testimony in March.
Caylin interrupts Ed DeMarco's Congressional testimony to demand affordable housing, March 2013. She and four others were arrested and charged with "disrupting Congress."
Since the Cruz home occupation in spring 2012, Occupy Homes MN has demanded President Obama fire Ed DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, a demand echoed by many progressive organizations around the country. Under the leadership of Ed DeMarco, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which control a majority of U.S. mortgages, have consistently refused to enact principal reduction or negotiate with struggling homeowners--including the Cruz family and Rose McGee, a Golden Valley homeowner currently working with Occupy Homes MN to fight her impending Fannie Mae eviction.
“I hope that Congressman Watt will be confirmed quickly, and that he will understand the importance of principal reduction to help guarantee that every family has access to safe and equitable housing,” said Rose McGee. “I don't know if this will help my situation, but I'm hopeful at this point for the future of others." Fannie Mae has been unyielding in its negotiations with Rose, at least in part because of policies DeMarco has put in place. At a press conference before Rose's last court hearing, Rep. Keith Ellison came out in favor of firing DeMarco.
Occupy Homes MN has helped lead national actions in Washington, D.C. at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac headquarters and Ed DeMarco's home. They also produced a rhyming picture book, Fannie and Freddie, about the role these institutions continue to play in the housing crisis.
“Knowing that there is finally a nominee to replace DeMarco makes me feel hopeful for families who are facing foreclosures just like mine did,” said Alejandra Cruz, David’s sister. “I hope those families struggling and working very hard for their homes will be able to stay in their homes without having to deal with Ed DeMarco standing in the way of justice."
Caylin Crawford, a researcher at the University of Minnesota fighting foreclosure with Occupy Homes MN, has received an unprecedented settlement offer from Freddie Mac that will keep her in her home.
The settlement represents a major break from Freddie Mac’s policy against selling houses back to homeowners or family members.
“I’m ecstatic that I get to stay in the home my family has put so much effort into,” said Caylin. “By building a community of support, we’ve made the impossible possible.”
When Caylin was injured in a snowboarding accident in 2011, she couldn’t work or go to school for three months. She called US Bank to inquire about a possible loan modification to help get her through this tough time. US Bank’s mortgage specialist told her that they couldn’t modify her loan unless she was in default, and advised her to stop paying.
As soon as Caylin was in default, she applied for a loan modification. But instead of reviewing her for the modification, US Bank and Freddie Mac began foreclosure proceedings.
“If I had known they weren’t going to modify my loan, I would have kept paying,” said Caylin.
Caylin filed a lawsuit over fraudulent foreclosure proceedings the day before her eviction hearing. Meanwhile she began working with Occupy Homes MN. She organized her co-workers, neighbors, and motorcycle club to support her campaign. After a well-attended barbecue at her house and three public speaking appearances in one week, Freddie Mac contacted Caylin’s lawyer and offered to settle the lawsuit.
“I got farther in one month with Occupy Homes MN than I did in almost two years in the legal system,” Caylin said.
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which own 59% of U.S. mortgages, have consistently been unyielding in negotiations with homeowners. Caylin has joined a national “Dump DeMarco” campaign pressuring the Obama administration to fire Ed DeMarco, the federal administrator who oversees Fannie and Freddie. In March she was among five people arrested in an act of civil disobedience interrupting DeMarco’s Congressional testimony in Washington, D.C. DeMarco has been identified as a primary obstacle to implementing principal reduction--writing down home loans to their current market value--and other important reforms at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are increasingly showing how vulnerable they are to public pressure,” said Becky Dernbach, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN. “Caylin’s unprecedented settlement offer is the latest example. We won’t stop until Fannie and Freddie’s policies work in the best interest of all homeowners. They are owned by taxpayers, and they need to remember that.”
Back in D.C. two weeks ago for a court hearing, Caylin delivered a letter to Fannie Mae headquarters from Rose McGee, a Golden Valley homeowner fighting her foreclosure with Fannie Mae and CitiMortgage.
“It makes a big difference knowing that I’m not alone in this battle,” said Caylin. “After what’s happened to me, I’ve made it my mission to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else. If the banks can negotiate with me, they can negotiate with everyone.”