Paramount homeowners stop mass eviction, win back homes

Homeowners and supporters filled the courtroom.

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.

June 2013 event helped the Valdezs buy their home back

“In November of 2012, we found out that our home was sold at a tax auction and bought by Redford Investment. Our lives were turned upside down, and we were facing eviction. We tried to resolve it with the buyer; he in a few words told us that he was in this business for profit, and in my head I said, what happen to the words that his company uses to attract people: ‘Saving the neighborhood one block at a time.’

“I found out that they were only words used by sharks that prey on the less privileged. We were told that no one could help us, that no one cared, but we never gave up, then we met Mr. Robert Day and the members of Detroit Eviction Defense.”

— Rosa Cruz Valdez, who is now secure in her home, from letter she sent DED

Manuel and Rosa Cruz-Valdez have the deeds to their homes because they fought against eviction. Detroit Eviction Defense organized a fundraiser in June 2013 for them. And United Community Housing Coalition was able to help them buy back their homes with no-interest loans.

Jennifer Britt fended off eviction, saved home!

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.”

Read the article and watch the Huffington Post story & video.

After the two-month vigil, Fannie Mae finally agreed to work out an agreement to sell Ms. Britt her home — a home she and her family live in today.

 

Gregorio Martinez gets his home back!

Mr. Martinez thanking supporters.

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.

Alma Counts gets her home back, foreclosure stopped!

Supporters gather outside Counts’ home in support of her request for a modified mortgage.

Alma is a paralyzed senior citizen on fixed income who fought being foreclosed on by Chase Bank and Freddie Mac, the federal agency that took over her mortgage. Even after the bank had pledged to modify mortgages and stop foreclosure fraud, it nullified Counts’ previous modification and doubled her payments.

UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, community leaders, and Vanessa Flucker, who fought for Counts in court, were among those who addressed the crowd that gathered outside her home to support her.

It took over a year, but in May 2013, Ms. Counts won the right to buy back her home at the real market value, which is a fraction of the outrageous payments the bank had been demanding.

Why are the Feds destroying our ‘hoods?

200+ people came out to hear testimony in May, 2013:

Homeowners determined to stay & fight

Crowd applauds testimony from S. Baxter Jones

“I really wanted you to view me and acknowledge me as a living, breathing, human being and not just another statistical casualty. I guess because you’re not represented here today, I can’t accomplish that. I guess when you don’t have to face me it makes it easier for you to not feel compassion for me or to account for your actions towards me.

“You can just continue business as usual, taking away my home and pushing another faceless person out into the streets.” — S. Baxter Jones, at May 20 hearing on federal agencies evicting homeowners

After months of negotiations with UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada and some stalling, the government-owned Fannie Mae/ Freddie Mac agencies had agreed to send 20 officials to town on May 20 and see first-hand how their hard-hearted policies are devastating our communities. “Fannie and Freddie, which own or insure more than half of all residential mortgages in the country, have foreclosed on more than 15,000 families in Wayne County since the government takeover by the Federal Housing and Finance Agency [in 2008],” UAW V.P. Estrada told the Metro Times. “Thousands more have lost their homes in Oakland and Macomb.”

But just days before the hearing, the officials from our government backed out, saying it would be “awkward” for them to be in the same room with homeowners who are battling them in court to save their homes from eviction. The hearing went on without them.

They can’t hide from the truth

The powerful testimony was being taped, and we’ll make sure it gets to the Feds. Stay tuned for more.

During the bank crisis,the U.S. government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which insure and buy mortgages from banks.

At the hearing, 22 homeowners, neighborhood activists, and members of the legal defense team gave powerful testimony on how Fannie and Freddie are relentlessly evicting families who have trouble paying inflated mortgages.  The testimony was broadcast live-to-tape by Tony Trupiano that evening on his “Night Shift” program (WDFN, AM radio, 1130, 7pm). Our new report, “A Hurricane Without Water: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Foreclosure Crisis in Metro Detroit” was distributed at the hearing.

The seats reserved for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at the May, 2013 hearing were empty, because they canceled at the last minute.

We are fighting for three things the federal government can do:

1) Halt Foreclosures & Evictions: Fannie Mae has declared moratoriums for hurricane victims. The 75,000 Michigan families foreclosed on in the last year are also victims— of mass unemployment and mortgage banking fraud.

2) Principal Reduction: Fannie and Freddie should help families in need by by reducing mortgage principal to reflect current market values. Families facing foreclosure can hear from homeowners at the rally who have successfully resisted.

3) Due Process for All: As government agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now governed by the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” The case opened Feb. 20 in Detroit