Victory Upstate!

Today we’re deviating a bit from our Friday news round up theme to tell Catherine Lennon’s story. Catherine is from Rochester, NY: a fierce little city upstate that I am also from, and which has seen some of the most powerful eviction defense and direct action against foreclosure in the Take Back the Land movement. Over two years ago, Bank of America foreclosed on Catherine’s home. She never gave up fighting them — both in the streets and in the courts — and this week, her home was deeded it back to her with NO mortgage and NO financial obligation. This is an enormous victory, and it proves that resistance against banks is powerful and it works. People fighting together are are stronger than Wall Street.

But no one should have to fight as hard as Catherine fought for the human right to housing. One home is saved, but thousands and thousands more have been seized. While we celebrate this historic victory, we need to also demand systematic change that cuts down banks and keeps people in their homes. A number of places are experimenting with different ways to do this. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing Wells Fargo for not complying with the mortgage settlement and providing modifications; Ridgewood, CA is moving forward with a plan to size mortgages through eminent domain. People power is the best kind of power there is, and as Catherine’s story shows, it’s effective. But we need to keep demanding more: a world where we don’t have to fight.

Check out the press release from Take Back the Land Rochester below.

In an unprecedented victory, Catherine Lennon, who gained local and national attention after moving back into her foreclosed home after being evicted, was according to public records, recently deeded back her house, without a mortgage. On Friday, November 15, 2013 at 11:30am, Take Back the Land Rochester will hold a press conference with Catherine Lennon at 9 Ravenwood, Rochester, NY 14619 to announce and discuss the significance of Ms. Lennon’s historic foreclosure fight victory.

After her husband died of cancer, Ms. Lennon fell behind on her mortgage. In spite of documented problems with the mortgage and foreclosure paperwork at the hands of Bank of America and notorious foreclosure mill of Steven J. Baum, Ms. Lennon was foreclosed upon. Take Back the Land- Rochester joined Catherine Lennon and waged an eviction defense of the home. The eviction blockade made local and national headlines when the Rochester SWAT-like operation executed the eviction, arresting 7 people, including a 70 year old neighbor in her pajamas.

On Mother’s Day 2011, in a daring act of civil disobedience, Ms. Lennon openly moved back into the home from which she was evicted, with Take Back the Land- Rochester announcing that it was not a “Sit-in,” but rather a “Live-in.” The act garnered national attention, Ms. Lennon was called “the Rosa Parks of the foreclosure crisis,” by former Obama Administration official Van Jones, and the act served as a model for much of the ongoing “Occupy our Homes” and Take Back the Land eviction defenses around the country.

Two years later, Ms. Lennon is making waves again. While many Homes” eviction defenses result in the owner receiving a new mortgage, often with principal reduction, public records reveal that Bank of America deeded the house back to Lennon without a mortgage, as per the demands of Take Back the Land- Rochester.  This is the first known case of a eviction defense ending with an outright winning of the house.  “I’m thrilled with the terms of my settlement, actually I’m beyond words,” exclaimed Lennon. “I’m filled with joy.”  “This is a precedent-setting victory, a demonstration of what’s possible, and preview what’s to come” said Ryan Acuff, an organizer with Take Back the Land Rochester.  “The banks are long overdue to donate tens of thousands of houses back to the community.  We paid for these houses in the bailout.  This victory is the beginning of the next phase of the movement.”


Bank of America sued for $1Billion

Just minutes ago, the news broke that Bank of America is being sued for $1 Billion by the United States Attorney General’s office in Manhattan for allegedly engaging in a scheme intending to defraud Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The suit is over actions taken by Countrywide Financial Corp.,  the notorious sub-prime lender sold thousands of defective loans to the now-beleaguered GSEs.

This move follows a trend we noted on our blog last week: Bank of America joins JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley on the list of financial institutions that are being taken to task for their role in perpetrating total meltdown in the housing market.

This news comes after yesterday’s surprising announcement that Barney Frank does not support Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s case against JP Morgan Chase. The Democratic representative from Massachusetts and architect of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation legislation said in a statement:

The decision now to prosecute J.P. Morgan Chase because of activities undertaken by Bear Stearns before the takeover unfortunately fits the description of allowing no good deed to go unpunished.

We tend to take a slightly cynical view of major party politics and politicians but I have to say we are surprised at Rep. Frank’s statement. The idea that this major financial institution (or any other) deserves special treatment from Washington is exactly the kind of thinking that leads to an unregulated Wall Street and perpetuates inequality in the United States. We happen to believe, based on the experience of the past five years, that an unfettered Wall Street contributes to a risky economic climate that puts low income homeowners in danger.

While we understand Barney Frank’s point, we  believe that Bear Stearns and Countrywide should be sued for their criminal actions that helped bring on the financial crisis.  While it is regrettable that it is JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America will have to answer the charges rather than the past corporate leaders of Bear Stearns and Countrywide, a corporate takeover  should not be a get out of jail free card that denies the citizens of New York State and the American people their day in court for these criminal actions.

Breaking News: Episode 2

After a long week,  it’s time for another laugh. Enjoy Epsiode 2: The SurReal Estate News!

And… In case you missed Episode 1, you can catch it here!