As Jaymie Kelly faces imminent Freddie Mac eviction, the new federal nominee to head Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae faced the Senate for his confirmation hearing today. But it’s not clear whether Rep. Mel Watt, who receives an inordinate amount of campaign money from big banks and the real estate industry, will enact changes at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that will allow people like Jaymie Kelly to stay in their homes.
Jaymie Kelly, 63, has lived on her block of south Minneapolis for her entire life, and in her home for 30 years. Over the years, she has paid $425,000 for her $81,000 home. But when she fell into foreclosure, Chase Bank claimed she still owed them $255,000. Now her home is owned by Freddie Mac, which refuses to sell homes back to previous homeowners or reduce the loan's principal--even for someone like Jaymie who has already paid for her home five times.
"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, Jaymie's neighbor, whose family made headlines last year after 39 arrests took place as neighbors defended his home from a wrongful Freddie Mac eviction last May, drawing national focus to Fannie and Freddie's refusal to work with homeowners. "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. As time is wasting more people are losing their homes."
The national campaign to "Dump DeMarco," led by New Bottom Line, began in January 2012 with an online petition and quickly grew into a diverse coalition movement. By September, the campaign had grown national. A series of actions in Atlanta, Chicago, L.A., and New York culminated with hundreds gathering to protest Fannie and Freddie headquarters in D.C., where five Fannie/Freddie residents were arrested in an act of civil disobedience. They finished the day at a pizza party on Ed DeMarco's lawn with a rhyming picture book about the role Fannie and Freddie play in the housing crisis.
The campaign heated up in the new year. In March, a group of Fannie/Freddie residents interrupted DeMarco's Congressional testimony, demanding principal reduction and affordable housing. Five were arrested. When 500 people descended on DeMarco's lawn in a National People's Action protest in April, DeMarco cowered in his home. Two weeks later, Obama announced his nomination for a replacement.
At the Senate hearing this morning, Rep. Watt demurred on specific questions about whether he would enact principal reduction. But Jaymie, fighting a campaign in Occupy Homes MN's Eviction Free Zone, plans to stay in her home regardless of potential administrative and policy change at FHFA. "I am not going anywhere," said Jaymie. "My life is like a banyan tree and my roots are in this neighborhood. I have already paid for my home five times. Freddie Mac will have to work with me and my community. I am not leaving."