In response to an emergency call for help, neighbors in Detroit’s Rosedale Park rallied early Halloween morning, October 31, 2013, to defend the Cullors family from being evicted and having all their belongings tossed into the dreaded dumpster they discovered next to their home. The crowd delayed the wrecking crew just long enough for an Eviction Defense lawyer to rush to court and win an emergency motion to halt the eviction.
The Cullors family was targeted for eviction by Bank of America and Fannie Mae — but when the Cullors refused to leave and supporters packed the courtroom on November 13, the judge agreed to delay eviction. The protests convinced Fannie Mae to drop the case and send it back to Bank of America to negotiate a modified mortgage.
The Cullors now have a mortgage they can afford and are secure in their home — and are active with Eviction Defense helping other homeowners.
How this courageous family almost lost their home:
Jerry and his daughter.
Jerry Cullors is a retired bakery truck driver who lives with his wife and daughter and her 88-year-old grandmother (who suffers from Alzheimer’s) in a lovely home they’ve owned for 23 years.
When Jerry had to take steep wage and pension cuts to keep Wonder Bread solvent, the family had trouble paying the mortgage serviced by Countrywide, the predatory lender now owned by Bank of America. They were told they owed $180,000 on a home that would sell for less than a sixth of that price.
Neighbors turn out to oppose the Cullors’ eviction.
Bank of America led the Cullors to believe they would qualify for a trial modification before denying them relief and suddenly bringing eviction proceedings on behalf of Fannie Mae. The Cullors expected to get help from their former lawyer and mortgage counselors, but found out at the last minute they were on the verge of eviction.
Bank of America has pled guilty to foreclosure abuse and is obligated to buy back mishandled mortgages from Fannie Mae and reduce principal for “underwater” homeowners — only after we put on the heat, did it do so!
Tsehaya Smith is buying back home she saved from blight
In her fight to save her home, Tsehaya Smith (r.) created this beautiful banner that Jerry Cullors helps hold up.
On August 7, 2014, Fannie Mae, the federally-controlled mortgage company, agreed to dismiss the eviction case against Ms. Smith and hammer out a deal to sell her back her home.
Ms. Smith and her lawyer bargained hard for a reasonable selling price, and United Community Housing Coalition is chipping in with a loan.
Smith was threatened with eviction from her family home of 50 years just as the December holidays approached. With Eviction Defense help, she organized tirelessly and did a great job presenting her case. She had already paid Fannie Mae thousands of dollars, and put thousands more into repairing the home. The fight caused her stress and lost income, but thanks to our solidarity and Tsehaya’s strong stance, Fanny Mae’s terms came down to earth.
After Metro Property threatened, demanded huge payment
Ms. Henderson had lived in her Detroit home for 36 years. She worked at Great Lakes Steel as a member of the Steelworkers union for 34 years, but after being diagnosed with cancer she was off work for three years. She returned to work in 2009, only to be laid off, and got behind on her property taxes. She now is retired on disability.
Ms. Henderson had a deal with the Wayne County Treasurer to pay $2,100 to prevent tax foreclosure. Through no fault of her own, her payment arrived three days late — and the Treasurer had already sold her home to Metro Property Management for $7,000.
Forty people picketed Metro Properties.
Ms. Henderson contacted Metro and offered $10,000 to buy back her home. But Metro demanded $52,000. Metro later said they wouldn’t sell, and wanted to rent her the home for $1,000 a month.
Metro put notices on Ms. Henderson’s door to try to frighten her into moving. One said: “This property is illegally occupied by a SQUATTER.” In March of 2014, a judge told the company such threats are wrong. After our public outcry shot holes in the public image Metro has been trying to project, it finally backed down and sold her the home at the price she had offered.
Urealdene Henderson (left), along with Mr. & Ms. Cruz Valdez and Kyley Givens display titles to the homes they fought to keep.
After we packed courtrooms, Pension Board meetings
At a packed Circuit Court hearing in December 2013, Judge John Gillis set aside the Detroit Police and Fire Pension Board’s motion for mass eviction of 57 homeowners who had been defrauded by the now-defunct Paramount Land Holdings. The Judge restored the right of each homeowner to due process, and at least 47 have now bought titles to the homes they had been led to think they already owned.
Kim Pierce fought for her home, and won!
Trying to make homeowners scapegoats for fraudulent investment
Paramount was a scam developer funded by the Detroit Police and Fire Pension Board. When Paramount collapsed, homeowners discovered their titles were never registered, and they were also socked with bills for back taxes Paramount had promised it had paid. The Pension Board moved to evict the homeowners rather than negotiate a fair deal. Homeowners were also threatened with foreclosure by the County for Paramount’s unpaid taxes.
Homeowners were finally allowed to make their case to the Board after they and their supporters crowded a previous Pension Board meeting, getting excellent press coverage.
Detroit’s Grandmont-Rosedale neighborhood offers key support
Jennifer had paid $46,000 to save a Rosedale Park-Detroit home that’s worth $25,000; 100 people held dawn-to-dusk vigil for two months to prevent eviction. Detroit Eviction Defense organized house-to-house leafleting of the neighborhood, informing them of Jennifer’s problem and inviting them to call the bank.
Spirited rally at the Federal Building, where 60-70 people protested Fannie Mae’s refusal of the offer by Michigan Lending Solutions to buy Jennifer’s house at its appraised value.
The committee also picketed, with UAW Local 600, at both Flagstar Bank, the holder of her mortgage, and at Fannie Mae, who backed it.
Demonstrating at Flagstar.
As the eviction order was issued, DED invited neighbors to participate in the 12-hour vigil. DED also held weekly meetings on Jennifer’s lawn.
As the vigil began July 19, 2012 Jennifer told her story (below) to a WWJ reporter, who found bank’s actions “unbelievable.”
During the year Chase Bank tried to evict Martinez, it learned that he could not be moved without a fight. After two marches, packed courtrooms and other popular pressure, the bank officially withdrew its eviction request. By working with HUD, Martinez finally got back his home at a reasonable price in September 2013.
Chase Bank had paid $2800 at sheriff’s sale to purchase Gregorio Martinez’s home. He could have redeemed his home for that amount — if he had known it. But all notices were in English, not the Spanish Gregorio can read. Gregorio later offered to pay Chase Bank the $2800 to save his home, but Chase Bank refused to negotiate and moved to evict.
Over 60 supporters of Martinez had marched on a Chase Bank branch.
Gregorio is a retired autoworker, has lived in his home for more than 15 years, and has been active in the community even longer. After retirement, Mr. Martinez had temporarily fallen behind on his mortgage, due to extraordinary financial needs of family members.
March through the neighborhood, 11/8/13.
At one point more than 60 people rallied and marched through his embattled Southwest Detroit neighborhood to picket a Chase branch. State Representative Rashida Tlaib and a UAW official sat down in the bank.