Leslie Parks is mad about seeing longtime Minneapolis homeowners finding themselves out of their homes because of foreclosures. Unless her situation soon changes, however, she too will join the growing list.
Parks was among several persons who spoke at the Minneapolis Urban League’s Northside headquarters at an October 6 meeting sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout and the Minnesota Tenants Union. She is a coalition member, part of the “Foreclosure Five” – five local women fighting against losing their homes.
One night earlier, October 5, Parks sat in the back of the Center for Changing Lives conference room during another foreclosure meeting hosted by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. Near its end, she told Ellison that a “real movement” is needed to get local, state and national lawmakers to start working seriously to stop foreclosures.
Afterwards, Parks briefly shared her story with the MSR. “I’ve been living there [in her South Minneapolis home] for 21 years,” she said, adding that she is the third generation of her family to reside there.
“My mom was conned by one of these crooked mortgage officers, and the bank just made it worse,” Parks said. “She got an ARM [adjustable rate mortgage] three years ago, but [previously] she was getting a fixed [rate]. She tried to find someone to help her but couldn’t.”
At the Urban League last week, Parks stood in front of that small gathering sharing her story.
“The sheriff’s sale happened May 29, and we are in our redemption period,” she explained. This “redemption period” refers to the period of time after a foreclosure (or sheriff’s) sale has been held, which typically is six months but in some cases can last 12 months.
The homeowner can continue to live in the home until the end of the redemption period. If the owner wants to stay after that, they must pay off the amount bid at the sheriff’s sale, plus interest. No past-due payments can be caught up after such sale, however.
“The redemption period is up November 30,” continued Parks. She believes that the bank that holds her mother’s mortgage “would rather throw me and my mother out in November in the cold than work something out so we can stay in our home. But I am going to resist this foreclosure come November 30 if nothing is worked out. They are not going to get me out of that house.”
The Coalition is urging the Minnesota Legislature to place a moratorium on foreclosures, along with requiring owners of foreclosed properties to allow current occupants to remain and pay their required monthly amounts. Linden Gawboy, one of three Coalition spokeswomen, argued that the federal government chose to bail out banks instead of citizens – “We are the people who are being affected.”
“We need to be in the streets, at the [State] Capitol, and in the politicians’ faces,” said Deb Konechne, adding that her group will be at the legislature again next year.
Amidst applause, Parks told the audience that just talking about the foreclosure crisis must stop. “This is a call for a peaceful revolution…,” she pleaded. “The people have to wake up and not allow these banks to destroy our communities, our neighborhoods, our families. We have to get involved and take action right now. This is the only way we can fight this.”
It is now time for citizens to take action, agreed Minneapolis Urban League Senior Program Director David Oguamanam. The banking industry has a huge influence on legislators both in St. Paul and Washington, he believes. “If more of us were visible in the halls of Congress and write the letters, maybe [lawmakers] would listen to us, too.”
The Minnesota Tenants Union’s (MTU) Peter Brown, a local attorney, said, “We’re working for a solution that stabilizes the neighborhood and the tenant family by staying in the neighborhood regardless of the owner’s situation.” However, he added that foreclosures are rising “because of the economic downturn, not just because of predatory lending and ARMs.”
Coalition literature that was distributed stated that mortgage counseling prevented 5,000 foreclosures in 2008. Brown quickly pointed out, however, that Minnesota had 26,000 foreclosures that year: “Sixteen percent were stopped [by mortgage counselors], and that’s really good, but what about the 84 percent [that weren’t]?”
During audience questions, Kayode Ologunde pointed out that banks and other financial agencies too often “play games” with homeowners in trouble. “They are bent on foreclosures, even if you send in a payment,” he believes.
Brown agreed: “It’s very clear that banks currently are not serious about renegotiating [mortgage loans], or not serious about implementing ways of keeping people in the homes.”
“What about renters?” Sarah Bynum of Minneapolis asked. “You’re in a building, and all of a sudden it goes into foreclosure. I have to move out.” Her present living situation is up in the air, Byrum said afterwards, but she is “hoping that it will get taken care of.”
“I’ve been a renter all my life,” added Angel Buechner, “and I am going through the same exact thing.”
Brown responded that the MTU and the Coalition are pushing for state legislation that would allow renters to stay in their homes and apartments and continue paying their rent when a property goes into foreclosure. “The forecloser should step into the shoes of the landlord – the renters should only be evicted for cause,” he said.
After two meetings last week that focused primarily on the foreclosure issue on both the city’s north and south sides, Brown concluded, “I thought it was very important that people from the North Side [come together with South Side folk]. We respect each other’s work but need to find a way to coordinate that in a way that is ultimately effective.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.