Occupy Homes MN welcomes the news today of the confirmation of Rep. Mel Watt to replace Ed DeMarco to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
The confirmation came after a two-year grassroots campaign led by New Bottom Line
for a permanent FHFA director who supports struggling homeowners; a filibuster
by Senate Republicans; and a dramatic rules change
to eliminate certain filibusters.
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.
"It's about time that homeowners have someone in charge of their mortgages who's willing to work with them," said Jaymie Kelly
, fighting Freddie Mac eviction from her south Minneapolis home of 30 years. "I've paid for my home five times over because I was the victim of a predatory loan, but Freddie Mac refused to work with me. I am hopeful that with Mel Watt in office, thousands of people like me will have a chance of staying in the homes they've worked so hard for. I am not leaving." Jaymie remains in her home after hundreds of community members stopped two eviction attempts
, but she still faces the threat of eviction every day.
DeMarco has widely been viewed as an obstacle to housing justice for refusing to let Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which control over half of all mortgages, reduce principal on mortgages--despite FHFA's own studies
showing that this action would benefit both taxpayers and homeowners. Watt has advocated for principal reduction in the past, a vision housing justice advocates hope he will bring to the FHFA.
"Thanks to this nationally coordinated campaign, homeowners with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-backed mortgages will finally have a chance for a fair loan modification," said Nick Espinosa, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN. "We hope Mel Watt will act immediately to enact principal reduction and donate vacant properties to community control to use for affordable housing. We will continue to fight with homeowners like Jaymie, house by house and neighborhood by neighborhood, until Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac work with our communities."
Foreclosed St. Paul homeowner Caylin Crawford interrupts Ed DeMarco's Congressional testimony to demand affordable housing, March 2013. She and four others were arrested and charged with "disrupting Congress."
Occupy Homes MN has helped lead
the national #DumpDeMarco campaign since Freddie Mac's forceful eviction of the Cruz family
last spring. Both in Minneapolis and in Washington, Occupy Homes MN played an instrumental role in the campaign by leading public pressure campaigns of Twin Cities homeowners fighting for negotiations with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; helping lead national actions at Fannie Mae
and Freddie Mac headquarters and Ed DeMarco's home
; and producing a rhyming picture book
, Fannie and Freddie,
about the role these institutions continue to play in the housing crisis.
"After all our hard work of nationwide solidarity, we've made a step forward in this neverending fight," said David Cruz, whose family's Freddie Mac foreclosure fight and violent eviction made headlines last year.
"Now it's up to us to bring the demands of the people to Mel Watt's doorstep. We will keep fighting until we make sure that what happened to my family never happens to anyone else. Everyone deserves a stable home, because housing is a human right."