FREE SPEECH ZONE | Anita Reyes Delivers “Community Lease” to Bank

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After six weeks of public pressure and neighborhood efforts to keep her in her house, Anita Reyes is still facing eviction despite her ability to pay a readjusted mortgage. Woodlands National Bank responded to the efforts of her neighbors, …

Occupy Homes and City Council member Gary Schiff to keep her in her home with a condescending lease making clear they could evict her at any time. In response, Reyes, neighbors, and supporters have prepared “a people’s lease,” based on terms that are acceptable to the community. They will deliver it to the bank on Wednesday.

“The bank’s lease is ridiculous,” stated Nick Shillingford, who lives three blocks south of Reyes. “We want a deal that keeps our neighbor in her house, and keeps our community strong.”

For weeks, Shillingford and other supporters and neighbors have been fixing up the house in preparation for a good-faith negotiation that would keep Reyes in her home.

Anita’s struggle is emblematic of the housing crisis that is ravaging the American Indian community, which has been among the hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. Currently, in Minnesota, 11% of the homeless population is American Indian, yet they make up 1% of the state’s population.

Woodlands’ latest offer follows a long string of contradictory offers and erratic behavior that have only confused Reyes and her neighbors. In late May, the bank took Reyes to housing court. A few weeks later, sheriffs posted a notice on her door ordering her to vacate the house. After an intense public pressure campaign culminating in a protest inside a local bank branch, the bank called Reyes and offered her a two-year rent-to-own agreement, ending with a new mortgage, only to later arbitrarily reject it. Since then, the bank has made no public statements despite numerous inquiries from supporters, relatives, and the Longfellow Community Council. When Anita drove 90 miles up to Onamia, MN, flanked by a dozen supporters to inquire about her mortgage, Woodlands National Bank refused to meet with her, and called the police.

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