Foreclosed home auction draws protesters, bargain-hunters


Local activists protested the auction of hundreds of foreclosed homes at the Minneapolis Convention Center on March 28.

The Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout organized the protest to demand that the state impose a two-year moratorium on all foreclosures, including rental properties.

About thirty protesters gathered on the sidewalk outside the convention center, chanting, “Banks got bailed out! People got thrown out! Stop foreclosures now!” The group, organized by the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout, held signs and gave short speeches in the cold, sunny weather.

“All of these homes that are being auctioned off today represent families who have been evicted and might be facing homelessness,” protester Steff Yorek said. “People’s lives are being auctioned off in there.”

The sale, held by the Real Estate Disposition Corporation (REDC), had an element of spectacle, as one foreclosed home after another went up for bid in a crowded convention room. An auctioneer stood in the front of the room, rapidly barking out prices. Most homes were sold in less than two minutes. The bidding for a three-bedroom St. Paul home previously valued at $65,000 started at just $500. Less than a minute later, it was sold for $32,500.

“You open your mouth, you might get it,” bidder Calvin Boquist said. “If you don’t you won’t.” Boquist, 53, came to the auction to buy a home for his twenty-year-old son Brandon. They hope to spend less than $35,000 on a small foreclosed home in Avon, Minnesota, close to St. John’s University where Brandon attends college.

Bidders walked past the protest quickly, but many drivers honked their horns to show support. “I understand why people see this as an opportunity,” coalition member Alan Dale said. The banks and the government, not the individual buyers, are the source of the problem, he said.

The proposed two-year foreclosure moratorium is part of a larger “People’s Bailout” bill introduced at the state legislature in January. The bill, which also includes job creation programs and a temporary halt to the five-year limit on receiving welfare benefits, has struggled to make it out of committee. But portions of the bill may pass as parts of other bills, supporters said.

Protesters said that the current economic crisis could prove worse than the Great Depression. And, as many were quick to point out, Minnesota’s Governor Floyd Olson issued an executive order temporarily halting foreclosures in 1933.

Madeleine Baran is a freelance journalist, specializing in labor and poverty issues. Her articles have appeared in The New York Daily News, Dollars & Sense, Clamor, The New Standard, and other publications.