Thursday, December 19, 2013

IBM and a Life or Death Situation

Zannie Jackson is in a life or death situation. Having lost use of both kidneys, he must undergo dialysis treatment four times a week. As he waits for a matching kidney that may never come, Zannie must also deal with his home being in foreclosure. Strengthened by his love for his 12-year-old son, he refuses to give up on his dual fight against his potentially fatal illness and an impending foreclosure.

Today, Zannie and over a dozen supporters delivered a petition signed by over 900 people to IBM --- the company owns Seterus, who is the loan servicer trying to foreclose on Zannie's home. It was a surprise to discover that IBM was getting into the mortgage business, less of a surprise that they are choosing to do it by branding a no name corporation to do their bidding. After IBM received the petition we held a demonstration outside IBM to make it clear that this would not go away. CBS cover the story on their 5 and 6pm newscasts.
‘Tis the season for giving and it is our hope that Seterus will negotiate a deal with Zannie that works with his disability income. Bank of America has already released him from his second mortgage; now it’s IBM’s turn to do the right thing.

The reality here is that if IBM owned Seterus modified Zannie's loan based on the real calue of the home it could be a victory for Zannie and IBM's Seterus. Zannie would be able to afford his payments, and Seterus would pull a profit and put an end to a public pressure campaign that's sure to escalate. American Friends Service Committee is excited to support Zannies campaign, which is being led by Occupy Our Homes Atlanta.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Housing Justice Saturday!

This past Saturday was jam packed with a lot of exciting housing justice work! Saturday morning I had the opportunity to meet with residents of the Peeples town community to talk about the housing crisis. There had been talk about the possibility of working on a community wide initiative to address the issue of foreclosures, evictions, lack of affordable housing, and vacant homes.

We purposed moving forward with a community wide listening project in late January early February. A listening project is a different way to engage with a community. Instead of telling folks what they need or what you can offer, a listening project assumes that folks that live in the community have the best ideas about what they need. Listening projects are a way of finding out what a community would like to see change.

The idea was very well received with multiple residents volunteering yo help do interviews door to door for the listening project. Super excited to move forward on that project next year!

All day the Atlanta Friends Meeting House hosted Occupy Our Homes Atlanta's year end member retreat, at which AFSC had a seat at the table. The retreat is an opportunity to reflect on the last year of work, look at the goals that were set last year, evaluate what was accomplished and what areas still need work. There was also space to set new goals for 2014, one of which is the listening project in Peeples town!

Rob Call put together this pretty amazing 2013 recap video, check it out:

To top off the night we had a holiday party at the Atlanta Friends Meeting House with delicious food, lots of folks, and music. It's important to create space to reflect and celebrate our work and each other. It's hard work, which is why so many call it struggle, which makes it even more important to lift up our victories.

BIG thanks to the Atlanta Friends Meeting House!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Nationstar Mortgage Get's a Surprise Deliver!

 Nancy Daniell, a senior citizen in Gwinnett County, has been an active community member at Berkeley Woods Condominiums since 1996, serving on the Board of Directors of her homeowner’s association and using her condo as a communal gathering space. After being laid off from her job in 2008, and facing an abysmal job market, her income from social security and a string of temporary jobs was no longer enough to keep up with her mortgage. She was denied a loan modification by her initial mortgage holder, Bank of America, forcing her to deplete her savings and file for bankruptcy.

Recently Nancy's loan was sold, with millions of other peoples, to Nationstar Mortgage. Not that we've linked to Nationstar's Facebook page instead of their regular website just so folks can get an idea of how difficult the mortgage holder is to work with. One reason why Bank of America has unloaded so many mortgages to Nationstar is because Nationstar isn't accountable to the National Mortgage Settlement like Bank of America is; of course this is very troubling.

After several months with major communication problems including the accidental foreclosure sale of Nancy's home and the inability to get a single point of contact as promised by Nationstar, we decided to escalate by organizing a demonstration outside Nationstar. But there was a problem in Georgia.

Luckily the housing justice movement is growing in this country, and we have allies almost everywhere. Turns out Folks in Dallas Texas, where Nationstar's headquarter are, we more then happy to organize a solidarity action for Nancy!

So last week about a dozen folks delivered Nancy's petition(which you should sign if you haven't already). They held a demonstration outside Nationstars headquarters and passed out fliers to folks passing by. 

Now while this fight isn't over yet, Nancy had this to say, " I am overwhelmed with gratitude for these friends & apparently Nationstar was a bit overwhelmed as well. I got a phone call later that afternoon from Taylor Pettigrew, a public relations specialist at Nationstar, who very politely assured me that Nationstar wanted to work with me in every way possible & asked for some more documentation regarding my loan application. I am now putting together that documentation & we shall see what happens next.
Many thanks & Happy Holidays to all those who have signed my petition, sent good wishes or participated in any positive way with my fight to remain in my home!"

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Housing Justice Academy, Jersey Style!

  Today marked day one of the third Housing Justice Academy and like the first two, it seems to be a success so far. In Newark NJ over 50 resident fighters and allies came out to learn how to organizer home defense campaigns using public pressure and direct action.

Newark was hit hard by the housing crisis leaving many communities littered with bank owned vacants and thousands owing mush more then their properties are worth. Like many states big bank settlements(hardest hit funds) are not trickling down to the hardest hit in New Jersey, instead being used by the state's Governor to balance the general budget.

Just one day into the Academy and residents are already planning out their first campaigns and strategies about what it would take to organize multiple eviction free zones. In Irvington, the city next to Newark, the mayor and members of city counsel have announced their intention to pursue eminent domain as a strategy to reclaim homes from multiple banks, bringing immediate relief to struggling home owners.

Lots to be excited about in New Jersey!