In the midst of a national housing crisis that hasn’t even peaked by some estimates, the Occupy Wall Street movement has its sights set on foreclosed homes and the auctions that sell repossessed properties to investors.
Occupy Our Homes is an offshoot campaign that plans to occupy at least 30 homes next week. Participants will help families stand their ground at their homes to avoid foreclosure or eviction. In some cases, families will return to their abandoned homes in hopes of reversing evictions.
Either way, the goal is to get the lenders to provide mortgage relief through loan modifications that reduce payments or write-down principals.
Homeowner advocates and lawmakers have accused lenders have not doing enough to prevent foreclosures, including those participating in the Obama Administration’s much-criticized effort, Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).
The Occupiers are also planning to disrupt auctions of foreclosed properties, where investors bid on troubled properties or lenders repossess the homes.
“We, the 99%, are standing up to Wall Street banks and demanding they negotiate with homeowners instead of fraudulently foreclosing on them,” reads a statement on the Occupy Our Homes website.
The campaign has designated Dec. 6 as a “National Day of Action.”
Such activism has gotten positive results.
Two months ago, Rose Gudiel and her family had lost a two-year battle against foreclosure and were facing eviction from their La Puente, Calif. home. Then they hunkered down with homeowner advocates in the house on Sept. 28.
The “occupy” action and resulting media exposure lead to a reversal of fortune. Fanny Mae canceled the eviction notice and offered the Gudiels a loan modification that enabled the family to stay in their home.
The Occupiers are tapping into widespread anger and frustration over the actions of big banks. Some state attorneys general have similar sentiments as a national probe and settlement talks with lenders has not yielded sufficient relief to homeowners.
Five of the nation’s largest lenders – Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citi, and Ally Financial’s GMAC Mortgage unit – are targeted in a lawsuit announced this week by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. The suit charges the banks practiced deceptive loan servicing and pursued illegal foreclosures on properties within that state.
The suit is the first such action brought by a state attorney general as dozens of other state authorities are seeking a settlement in the case known as the “robo-signing” scandal. The lawsuit and the broader probe is centered on allegations that bank personnel signed foreclosure affidavits that were untrue, or not based on a signor’s actual knowledge
Coakley is not the first state attorney general to walk away from the probe. In September, California AG Kamala Harris backed off from the nationwide settlement, stating that residents of her state were not getting proper redress.
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