Tag Archives: housing

Downward mobility haunts US education (and more)

To add to my last posts. From the BBC. – R. T.:

3 December 2012 Last updated at 14:03 ET

Downward mobility haunts US education

By Sean Coughlan, BBC News education correspondent  

An integral part of the American Dream is under threat – as “downward mobility” seems to be threatening the education system in the United States.

The idea of going to college – and the expectation that the next generation will be better educated and more prosperous than its predecessor – has been hardwired into the ambitions of the middle classes in the United States.

But there are deep-seated worries about whether this upward mobility is going into reverse.

Andreas Schleicher, special adviser on education at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), says the US is now the only major economy in the world where the younger generation is not going to be better educated than the older.

“It’s something of great significance because much of today’s economic power of the United States rests on a very high degree of adult skills – and that is now at risk,” says Mr Schleicher.

“These skills are the engine of the US economy and the engine is stuttering,” says Mr Schleicher, one of the world’s most influential experts on international education comparisons.

Lack of opportunity

The annual OECD education statistics show that only about one in five young adults in the US reaches a higher level of education than their parents – among the lowest rates of upward mobility in the developed world.

Ohio steelworks A steelworker in Ohio in 1950 drives away his new Dodge, paid for with a $320 monthly wage. The steelworks have shut and the town is now in the “rust belt”

For a country whose self-image is based on optimism and opportunity, the US is now a country where someone with poorly-educated parents is less likely to reach university than in almost any other industrial country.

It’s the opposite of a Hollywood ending.

And about one in five young adults in the US are now defined in educational terms as “downwardly mobile” – such as children who have graduate parents but who don’t reach university level themselves. …

To read more, click on link below:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20154358

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From the New York Times. R. T.:

Hunger in Plain Sight

By MARK BITTMAN
Published: November 27, 2012

There are hungry people out there, actually; they’re just largely invisible to the rest of us, or they look so much like us that it’s hard to tell. The Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program, better known as SNAP and even better known as food stamps, currently has around 46 million participants, a record high. That’s one in eight Americans — 10 people in your subway car, one or two on every line at Walmart.

We wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but as it stands, the number should be higher[1]: many people are unaware that they’re eligible for SNAP, and thus the participation rate is probably around three-quarters of what it should be.

Food stamps allow you to shop more or less normally, but on an extremely tight budget, around $130 a month. It’s tough to feed a family on food stamps (and even tougher without them), and that’s where food banks – a network of nonprofit, nongovernment agencies, centrally located clearing houses for donated or purchased food that is sent to local affiliated agencies or “pantries” – come in. Food banks may cover an entire state or part of one: the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, for example, serves 53 counties and provides enough food to feed 48,000 square miles and feeds 90,000 people a week – in a state with fewer than four million people.

Like many other food banks, Oklahoma’s, says executive director Rodney Bivens, has made a commitment to serve every single person in need in its area; put that together with that state’s geography, and it might give you pause. Similarly, God’s Love We Deliver (not technically a food bank), which provides over a million cooked meals a year to sick people in the five boroughs and the Newark area, has seen its numbers nearly double in the last six years because, as Karen Pearl, the president and C.E.O. told me, “We are never going to have a waiting list and are never going to turn people away.”

And because poverty is growing.

Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs brought the poverty level down to 11 percent from 20 percent in less than 10 years. Ronald Reagan began the process of dismantling that minimal safety net, and as a result the current poverty level is close to 16 percent, and food stamps are not fully doing their job. “There was a time in this country,” says Maryland Food Bank president and C.E.O. Deborah Flateman, “when food stamps had practically eliminated hunger; then the big cuts happened, and we’ve been trying to recover ever since.” …

To read more, please click on link below: – R. T.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/art/1000511/28?sub=OneColumnist&col=63

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AND YET WE SPEND $$$$ ON WAR – $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. CLICK ON LINK BELOW: R.T.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raI25N-OoMQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

CDC detractors need a reality check

By Rosalie Tirella

As the develppers who want to weaken CDCs get even more intent on decreasing their numbers in Worcester, it’s important to remember this: Around half of Worcester residents are eligible for CDC housing. Many of our families our headed by working moms or dads and they still can’t find a nice apartment that is affordable. Our public school students are incredibly mobile. That is, a majority of our kids never graduate from the elementary school where they first began their student lives, the Worcester public elementary schools where they began kindergarten.

Why?

Because their families are always two steps ahead of landlords who are evicting them from their Worcester apartments because of nonpayment of rent.

Why?

Because $850 and $900 is a lot of money for a cold water flat. People are always looking for apartments in Worcester – and leaving them. If Worcester developers were doing such a great job of meeting Worcester’s rental housing needs, we would not have this HOUSING CRISIS. This FAMILY CRISIS. THIS POVERTY CRISIS.

Let’s go back to the families who are on the lam – with their kids in tow:

How can a child learn in school if there is a domestic crisis raging behind the scenes? A crisis that will also send him or her to another Worcester public school in another part of the city, where they will have to get to know routines all over again, make new friends all over again, miss old pals and, of course, be a grade or two behind other kids who are fortunate enough to be living in an OK apartment.

Also, more than half of our public school students are eligible for the Free Lunch program.

Where are these folks gonna go, if the CDCs wither on the vine? Do you think the developers will pick up the slack? No! They contribute to the problem.

We also need a JOBS DISCUSSION. WE NEED GOOD PAYING JOBS. WE NEED TO RAISE THE STATE MINIMUM WAGE TO $10 AN HOUR.

Let’s face it. Most of the factory jobs are gone – the jobs that paid good wages even if you couldn’t read or write or do math all that well. The jobs that created a solid working class. Jobs that gave the unskilled little homes in places like Lawrence, Lowell, Worcester. The kind of jobs that allowed for family stability – enough stability so maybe the kids could be the first to go to college.

Those jobs are gone. We have to pump up the McJobs. We have to pay folks more money so they are not living in brutal circumstances.

The CDCs slaying is just at the tip of the iceberg – the iceberg to make the lives of the working poor/working class harder.

We need a JOBS/WAGE discussion.

Then our housing  problem may solve itself.

One ICTimes reader writes …

“I have to Wonder … “

I have to wonder if Worcester is more and more resembling Lawrence, New Bedford and Springfield.

Let’s KEEP adding more panhandlers and encourage our school age children that panhandling isn’t just a good livelihood, it’s the best Worcester can offer!

Also, let’s salvage what federal housing dollars we do get by secretly stowing into city and hidden pseudo-agencies.

Let’s give illegal immigrants rights, insurance and education so that the folks trying to do it legally don’t have a fair chance.

And let’s never propose a housing plan for the renter majority that utilizes the free market and entrepreneurship.

Let’s squander our money the right way.

This is what happens when one party rules for decades promising Santa Claus every November.

Jim May
Worcester

Worcester CDC letter to HUD, re: HUD audit of City of Worcester’s Executive Office of Neighborhoods and Economic Development, block grant funding

editor’s note: First: letter to Worcester City Council from Main South CDC. Next: letter to HUD from the Main South CDC’s executive director, Steve Teasdale. We have made bold some paragraphs. R. T.
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To Worcester City Councillors:

As you are probably now aware, the City is undergoing an internal audit from HUD regarding its administration of the CDBG program. Particular focus has been placed on the housing delivery programs that are run by local CDC’s. We would suggest that this scrutiny is largely due to the internal problems EONS is facing with regard to the 5 May Street property and one of the Lead paint program inspectors who is facing criminal charges for bribery.

The result is that funds that are owed to the Main South CDC and other local CDC’s have been frozen and no new contracts for the year starting 6/30/2012 have been approved. Furthermore the Telegram and Gazette articles by Sutner, who as usual is long on misrepresentation and short on fact, continue to damage our credibility with the uninformed reader.

I am forwarding a copy of our agency’s response to HUD regarding their recent findings. I have asked for a meeting with HUD to clarify the situation and see what can be done to allow us to once again receive Block Grant funding. Our agency will cease operations as presently exist if funding is not renewed.

Whether you support the work that the Main South CDC has done or not, I respectfully suggest that the Council Sub-Committee on Community Development should convene ASAP to hold hearings on these findings. In the interim any councillor is welcome to come to our office to review our documentation to determine first hand whether or not the Main South CDC complied with the terms of its CDBG contracts.

Main South CDC
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Copy of Communication to HUD Regional Offices:

Dear Sirs:

I am writing on behalf of the Main South CDC one of Worcester’s neighborhood non-profit housing developers whose future operations are being seriously jeopardized as a result of HUD’s ongoing audit of the City of Worcester’s Executive Office of Neighborhood’s and Economic Development. Furthermore the manner in which the local press is reporting the findings of this audit is misleading and untrue and damaging to our agencies. Please see the attached article.

I would like to make several points:

Firstly nobody at HUD has asked to meet with the Main South CDC to review any of our records. The City is missing most of the documentation that has previously been supplied to them that would address the very findings that the HUD audit is raising with regard to the Main South CDC. As a result they have not been able to answer the questions you raise.

Specifically:

1. The IDIS reporting from the City was minimal and did not represent what the Main South CDC had produced. The lack of satisfactory reporting by the City is not the fault of our agency who has produced what it was contracted to do… The funds we received were spent on housing delivery services as outlined in our CDBG contracts.

2. Our proposals for each CDBG funding cycle were approximately twelve pages long and explained in detail what our performance goals would be and how they met the National Objectives for eligibility under CDBG regulations. We did not prepare the final scope of services in the contracts, the City did that but we produced what we said we would in our proposals. We have detailed records available that are available for review.

3. CDBG funds were spent to support only positions listed in our budget proposals. Again full records are available.

4. We have an internal analysis available for your review of the cost of our housing delivery programs on an annual basis. For each year that is the subject of your audit the cost of our housing delivery programs exceeded the amount of CDBG funds plus overhead fees associated with HOME funded programs. This analysis is available for review and so is the supporting documentation.

The fact is that all federal HOME and CDBG funds owed to our agency have now been frozen. We have a twenty-two unit LIHTC project underway that is nearing completion and are awaiting payment of over $600,000 from the City. We can not access it. We are still owed CDBG funds from last year’s contract, these are now frozen. We cannot bridge this operating loss because lenders want a commitment letter from the City showing we will be receiving the CDBG funds and the City is now not in a position to do this.

I would ask any of you or your staff to come to Main South and see the transformation of this neighborhood that has taken place over the last several years. It has been supported through CDBG funding and the product has been produced.

I respectfully request a meeting with senior HUD staff at the Regional Office to present our case. Years of work have gone into the revitalization of this neighborhood. Work that has had the direct support of our congressional delegation. The economic climate is difficult enough at present without these added challenges. We believe we have fulfilled our contractual obligations in accordance with CDBG regulations.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter

J.Stephen Teasdale, Executive Director
Main South CDC

Open letter to Governor Deval Patrick

July 30, 2012

Governor Deval Patrick
Massachusetts State House
Room 280
Boston, MA 02133

Dear Governor Patrick,

On behalf of thousands of Massachusetts families whose lives are impacted by foreclosure – and all Bay State residents and consumers harmed by the ongoing economic damage of this mortgage crisis – we ask that you take action to eliminate harmful measures included in the pending foreclosure abatement legislation, House Bill 4323.

As an attorney who cut his teeth advocating on behalf of homeowners in the last, comparatively small, foreclosure crisis, you know firsthand the life-wrecking stress experienced by families facing foreclosure and eviction. And as an elected leader, you have dealt directly with the devastating impact the mortgage crisis has had on communities throughout the Commonwealth.

With this experience in mind, we ask that you not sign this legislation as-is, but that you step in to amend and address damaging provisions included within. Among the actions necessary to restore the integrity of this bill:

Remove language that will otherwise extinguish Massachusetts homeowners’ rights to sue to get their homes back in the case of certain illegal foreclosures.

Correct the arduous and unworkable negotiation process proposed for subprime loan modifications – a process that has consistently failed lenders and borrowers across the country for years.

Ensure Bay State families are able to remain in their homes by renting post-foreclosure properties now.

Addressing language that harms victims of illegal or fraudulent foreclosure is of the utmost importance. First, a new section, inserted at the last minute without notice, transforms this legislation into an anti-homeowner bill and overturns a recent Supreme Judicial Court decision that affirmed a legal protection that has existed for over a century. This new language irrevocably extinguishes the right of all homeowners to sue to get their homes back in cases where lenders have sold properties to third parties – despite not having the legally required promissory note. In Brockton, Springfield, Worcester, and many other communities hardest-hit by the foreclosure crisis, on-the-ground experience shows real estate investors are the overwhelming majority of third party purchasers – not everyday citizens looking for a place to live and raise a family. Few potential homeowners qualify to meet today’s tight lending rules and banks consistently prefer the cash offers of investor-developers. Should this language remain intact, thousands of present homeowners’ rights will be extinguished the day of the auction if a third party purchase occurs at foreclosure.

Second, to the credit of its authors, this legislation would require lenders holding legally unfair, predatory loans to test if they lose more money foreclosing on a homeowner than by offering that family a truly affordable modification. Unfortunately, this protection was coupled with an unworkable process to negotiate and receive that loan modification – one that is by mail only, includes unrealistic deadlines, and offers no concrete notification to the borrower of their opportunities or potential loss ofprotections in this process.

For example, a bank conducts a now-mandated cost analysis; it shows they lose more money by foreclosing than renegotiating loan terms, and the lender must contact the homeowner about a loan modification. The homeowner, however, has only 30 days to prepare all necessary application documents and have them accepted by the bank. Lenders rarely accept an application as complete on the first try; families nationwide submit documents an average of six times to be deemed complete. In short, these processes and deadlines will block most homeowners from accessing the very protections this bill attempts to create.

Third, this bill also creates a task force to draft a measure to grant homeowners the right to rent their homes post-foreclosure during the bank’s ownership, but requires no real action from that committee until 2013. Permitting homeowners to pay fair market rent will dramatically reduce the rising number of empty, foreclosed properties that drive down property values in communities across the Commonwealth – and shrink the number of homeless families as well. You first spoke in support of this law in spring 2007, at the beginning of the crisis, and each year since, some 8,000 more homeowner households have been needlessly evicted. The task force needs to complete its work by the end of 2012, not 2013.

Even the positive changes in the bill will offer protection to an ever-dwindling number of Massachusetts families. The new loss analysis, for instance, covers only subprime loans. Federal Reserve figures show less than 30% of the Commonwealth’s foreclosures were of subprime loans in 2009, and that number has been dropping since. At best, an estimated 500 families would benefit from the new protection each year, compared to thousands who will loose a key right to regain their home due to the last-minute language additions mentioned above.

Governor Patrick, we ask that you prioritize immediate action to save the key right of all Massachusetts homeowners, going forward, to regain their homes. In addition, we hope that you will correct the loan modification process to work for those facing foreclosure due to unfair, subprime loans – and that you call for an end-of-year deadline for writing right-to-rent legislation that will help keep Bay State families in their homes.

Sincerely,

Nadine Cohen
Consumer Rights Unit, Greater Boston Legal Services

Lee Goldstein,
Chair of Massachusetts Foreclosure Task Force, National Lawyers Guild

Eloise Lawrence
Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

Grace Ross
Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending

Worcester’s foreclosure crisis: What you need to know to save your home

By Grace Ross and Worcester County families

In 2006, Massachusetts with Worcester frequently in the lead began to see an ever-increasing number of foreclosures. While the crisis grew, many engaged in the blame game. Worcester had gotten into the breech early, but did not want to face how fast it was going to snow ball. Early reports that the problem was subprime mortgages with bad terms taken mostly by lower income, new borrowers, led some to blame the borrowers.

The first major case brought in Massachusetts Supreme Court where one of the best judicial minds in our state got to review the standard sub-prime mortgage documents (and his ruling was upheld by the rest of the Court). And he found the problems were unequivocably caused by inherently unfair practices by the big mortgage companies. Mortgage companies were not regulated like the rest of the banks, the loans they provided were not in any way comparable to traditional prime mortgages, and, as Justice Gants pointed out, were specifically structured to trap borrowers.

Those of us who have waded into the nitty gritty of what was happening to our neighbors in this mess found the truth to be the opposite of what we were told. Now the shannigans of the largest financial players in the world are splashed across the headlines but we heard it first from the grass roots.

Some of the people who went searching for the real story, real answers and continue to do so, are your neighbors who make up the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team.

And what were those stories? And what can we tell you to do if your story sounds like one of these? Read on …

Ann Kamarauskas

We got the house, me and my sister, when my mother passed. We took out a couple small mortgages – we wanted to take a mortgage to get stuff done around the house, because it is very old. Given our credit report, a friend, a broker said the only one we could go through was Full Spectrum Lending, part of Countrywide. Then I needed a car so we did a re-mortgage. But they said we had to take out more than I wanted because of my sister’s debt. So that was when it went into Countrywide and they put it under my sister’s name. This second time, unlike every time before where they asked for our paystubs, checking/bank account statements and all this financial paperwork like our taxes, this time they didn’t ask for anything – I thought it was weird but I didn’t know anything – I figured maybe they had all our stuff on file.

We got the mortgage and that time, the lady came over – we’d always gone to a law office before so we didn’t know what was going on. The lady kept saying she was in such a rush. My sister notices that they have her name spelled wrong all the way through. So the lady is all pissed off and rushing, they have to go through all the papers, the lady crossing off the s, my sister writing in the z.

I had not had problems paying the mortgage before but we started having problems paying this mortgage. Where my sister works, she doesn’t make $4,333 we found later they put on the mortgage and she told them she does not work in the summer. So we went back to our friend, the broker, to see if she could help us renegotiate our loan. She said “wow, Barbara makes a lot working down at the middle school.” I said, “What are you talking about?” She says, “ according to this paperwork, she makes over 50 grand per year!” “She’s lucky if she takes out 21 thousand per year,” I told her.

She ended up calling them and saying,“I know what you people do to get people mortgages.,” She was yelling at them, “I own my own mortgage company I know what I am talking about.” But nothing came of it.

After that I got laid off in 2009. And my sister couldn’t keep doing the payments. We just kept calling countrywide, no reply. Then we heard about loan modifications, we kept filling out paperwork. We ended up driving down to Dedham. They went over our paystubs, bank accounts, tax stuff. They said we would be the first on their list to do a loan modification. They would not take my paperwork only my sister’s.

They said, “you’ll hear from us 2 weeks.” But we didn’t hear and kept calling; our paperwork kept changing hands. Then they kept asking for new paperwork again and again.

Then we got a letter for October 2010 saying they were foreclosing April 8th. We called and they called their loan officer, called back and said it was postponed but we don’t know what happened.

Ann comes every first and third Weds, 5:30 pm at the Pleasant St. Network Center to WAFT meetings. We will see what we can do. She might be able to afford a modified loan if they count both her and her sisters’ income and bring the house value down to closer to today’s values. She has a friend who can re-appraise and if we can get the bank to send out the “Net Present Value” letter which is supposed to come with a loan turn down, then we can figure out why the bank sasy they cannot afford it.

ALSO, we wonder why letters from the lawyers and the court were sent on behalf of a bank that only owned the loan many months later! And then, maybe we can get something done about why Countrywide put down the wrong income for her sister in the first place!

Marty

My wife and I split up like 15 years ago. I had refinanced the house. I had been doing fine.

Then my business went under in this economy– self-employed. That was when I went into depressed and stop being able to make the payments, anything. They kept sending mortgage bills, then Harmon Law got involved, saying they were going to foreclose.

So then Chris, my neighbor who was a member of WAFT got my name off the listing of foreclosure auctions and came by. He said I should come by a WAFT meeting. That got me hooked up with Jen & Luz – realtors who are part of WAFT.

I was going through bankruptcy at that point and my lawyer said not having the mortgage on the bankruptcy would be much better in the long run. By then, Jen & Luz had found me a buyer.
The bank had put the original auction off; they had given us a date by which to sell the house by. That time was just not long enough for the sale to go through, the buyer needed more time to get financing. So they threatened to auction it again.

So last minute we went and got a bankruptcy from the court. That made the auction not legal. WAFT came and protested and that stopped the auction process. This meant we were able to sell the place and fully pay off the mortgage. It was ridiculous that they were willing to get less money through the auction instead of the full amount through my signed Purchase & Sale. It made no sense.
We got that small bankruptcy dismissed but went with the full bankruptcy which I needed.

I wonder now if that sale was the best way to go. Wells Fargo could never prove they had the note. Maybe now that all the illegal actions of the banks have come out in the paper, I wonder if I should have stayed and made them prove they own the note instead of selling the property.

Marty was really lost until we worked together but he always willing to stand up and help someone out. He worked to get a buyer to pay off the bank. When they would no longer wait even though it was just a couple of weeks and tens of thousands more pay-off for them, Marty worked to get a bankruptcy and have WAFT folks come protest to stop the auction.

We know more now. You should look up all the mortgage, assignment, complaint paperwork on the Worcester Registry of Deeds website. And now that it is public, that many of the banks swore to affidavits they never read, claim ownership of mortgages where there is no proven chain of ownership going back to the first filing, missed dated paperwork – we wonder what justice is there is in cases like his: even if we show they did not own the mortgage and were sending him letters threatening a foreclosure they had no right to, he did a private sale…

Charity

I bought the house in 2003 and went through the broker and then Fast Choice. That was sold to CitiMortgage. When things started going bad and I was still working, I kept trying to remortgage. They said I was making too much. Then when my income went down some, they said I made less so they would take the application over the phone. Then they would sit on it; by the time you call again, they send you somewhere else. Finally I became sick last April. I kept telling them about the workers comp when they kept calling for the payments.

But one group there did not know what the other group was told. Finally I went to Neighborworks – they took my papers and bills and we sent it to Citi; they said they would get back to us in a few weeks. Then it was a few months; they want all the paperwork over again. And after we faxed all of this paperwork, finally a woman from Citi called, wanted the worker’s comp & financials and said not to talk to anyone else; we faxed everything else. Then we get the paper for the auction date April 1st. I left messages.

Finally, she called in early March and said the underwriter said they cannot do anything without a return date to work. I have to wait for my employer to find light duty so they declined me.
I met WAFT on Sunday, the auction was the Friday before. Chris came by and told me something I didn’t know: “you can stay even after foreclosure.”

I got this notice pinned to my door four days after the foreclosure giving me ten days to move out or all my things would be declared abandoned and removed. Thank God, the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team came to my door. My heart was pounding. I had gotten boxes, terrified that at any moment the realtor would arrive to move my stuff out.

Of course, once WAFT knew about the notice pinned to Charity’s door which illegal pressured her to leave immediately, we called the Attorney General’s office. They had sued realtors, agents for the banks, who did this elsewhere in Massachusetts. Once we found out it violated Charity’s right to stay until a court evicted her, did not give her a chance to try to negotiate rent, we went and protested the Realtor (see story in last In City Times). But WAFT took action and now notices telling people they can stay till a court evicts them have been posted and …

Now I just heard from Tony, the realtor. He was very nice now, no more harassing calls. And he said he would tell the bank that I want to stay and pay rent and talk to them about the leak in the roof.
Charity has been a fierce voice since she found out about her rights and has joined WAFT. We look forward to helping her stay in her home with a fixed roof. And if she get her work figured out, she want to try to re-purchase!

Christeen

I bought this house with my own money & a regular mortgage. When I had to refinance, my same broker put me in a subprime mortgage – I had no idea. I was shocked when I suddenly got a bigger bill!
In the fall of ’08 when they foreclosed, they started immediately trying to force me out. Two days after the auction, someone was outside mowing the lawn. Then I heard someone banging on a door. I checked the front door. I went to the back door, opened it and this guy was there.

He said, “You’re lucky you were home and opened the door because I was ready to bust the knobs off your doors.” I replied, “What do you mean your going to bust my door knobs off? I at least have thirty days here.” He said “well, I am just doing what I was told to.” “How are you going to come at nine in the morning, people have lives, people are at work; why don’t you come like at five, six o’clock when people are home from work?”

I got letters, visits, phone calls. It turned out to be a local realtor who harassed me for the bank to get me out.

I got lucky and ran into the WAFT at a community event. They taught me that the lender’s people could not force me to leave, that they had to repair when there was flooding and life-threatening mold built up. They supported me to call code and force the lender to make the home safe for me, my son and grandchildren till we moved.
Meanwhile IndyMac started trying to evict me thru the court (the only way they can legally evict). But it was weird because we had a deed showing that Deutsche Bank owned the property.

The lawyer from Harmon Law said it was IndyMac and argued even when we showed her the deed. Eventually IndyMac stopped the eviction; then the same lawyers started over again as Deutsche bank.
I always thought that was weird. How could they not know who owned it when they went to evict me? How did they prove they owned the property? With WAFT’s help, I fought them. And when they finally settled for me to move out, I got two and a half times as much money as what they had ever tried to get me to take when first harassing me to move out.

I tried to negotiate renting, talk to them about the mortgage – they NEVER responded.

Now today, I have paperwork showing IndayMac did not have clear ownership of the mortgage when they foreclosed!

You know what this has put my family through? This Experience has been extremely Detrimental to my family’s health…mentally & physically: Heartache, Distress, Deep Depression, Behavioral issues with my children in school, Self-esteem, feeling like a Failure. All in all, 1000’s of families are going thru the same situation. In all actuality, it boils down to: the bank, MY bank, the one you think is on your side & there to help you, they didn’t!

They never responded & didn’t even own the loan any more! I am fighting the illegal foreclosure and I want a fair settlement since they never had the right to foreclose!

Christeen showed us the power of connecting, learning your rights, and fighting for decent treatment with the support of others. She found out she did not have to leave right after the foreclosure, that they cannot legally call, drop by and harass you to leave. And when they take you to court, the lawyers cannot lie about who owns the property. She got repairs when there were serious health threats to her baby grandchildren and got time for her son to finish out the school year before they moved.

And now she knows she was one of thousands in Massachusetts that may have had their home illegally foreclosed by banks. And she’s still fighting. It will never make up for the investment she had in her home but she won’t be a victim.

M (asked that her name not be used)

Problems started after we refinanced to do major repairs on the house (a four family: all our family and one unit rented). It was in 2004 and an adjustable rate mortgage but we figured we’d be able to refinance again into a fixed rate; that was the goal. The broker suggested we do that because at the time that was the best rate we could get.
We got the loan, did the repairs. Once we got closer to the date for the rate adjustment we reached out to banks for a new mortgage but we couldn’t get one because by then we were upside down; the value on the home had gone down!

For years now the loan is much more than the house’s value. So we tried to find help to refinance because we knew there was no way to afford this mortgage. We had income. We tried directly with Wells Fargo for a loan modification but they said their investor would not do it because we were current.

So we went to NACA 2007 (worked with them through 2011). We also went to Oakhill. Same story: bank said there was no incentive to work with us because we were current.

In July ’09, I became unemployed – our renters allowed us to still pay the loan through til May 2010. Between losing renters and my mother’s business having fewer children (because so many other people are unemployed), we couldn’t do it any more.
We attempted to work with Wells Fargo but kept getting stalled. We went to a special lenders day through NACA and signed with a Wells Fargo representative what I understood was a three month moratorium. In February, I got employed; I reached out to both NACA and Wells Fargo then with a full time income. They said I needed four pay stubs for them to even review. Inbetween that, we finally got the application in through NACA on March 15th. On March 17th we got the Harmon Law letter saying they were foreclosing.

It is important to note: we got the moratorium on October 31. Until that time Wells Fargo had been both the owner and servicer of the loan. In mid-November, they assigned the mortgage to Deutsche Bank and that is when Harmon Law started the foreclosure. We were unaware of this so through February we sent Wells Fargo money at the lower rate.

April, we were sent the auction date – based on that we filed the complaint in Superior Court because we thought it was only fair that we complete this process before the auction was allowed.
I went to court the first time. No one appeared from the bank. The second time, we showed up again, the lawyer showed up and we agreed to put off the court date to mid-July. The lawyer said he would make sure that Deutsche bank sent the loan modification forms to me. Two weeks ago, we got notice that the auction had been postponed from May 11th til end of July. And I have just submitted them, sent them back to them.

This process has been a learning experience for me. Only since we got referred to WAFT, we found out that we aren’t the only ones in the situation. We are more empowered. You went through paperwork with us and supported us with court.

You guys are like the untapped resources. You guys do an awesome job. Only wish more people knew about you.

M and her family are amazing; they filed a complaint in Superior Court before they ever even found WAFT. Like many, they had a plan when they got refinanced into a loan they knew would be unaffordable when the interest rate increased two year later. But they had not planned for prices to drop. And being pro-active about seeking a loan modification, M found out – like thousands of others who have tried – that they won’t let you get ahead of the problem, they want you delinquent in payments and in trouble with income first.

But going to court with some legal guidance and support from WAFT, they have been able to go after a loan modification. Meanwhile, we want to know how Wells Fargo signed a legal agreement and then sold the mortgage to Deutsche Bank.

In each situation, we know the information WAFT has is making a difference. More importantly, though, we often find we need each other for support and even for public action and getting in touch with resources like the Attorney General’s office.

And there is nothing more important than the doorknocking WAFT members do every week to reach our neighbors whose homes may be listed on the new auction lists. During our outreach we often knock on doors of buildings that were auctioned two or three weeks previously, and very frequently we find the buildings empty – with both tenants and former owners gone. We know that “notice to quit” forms that look like eviction orders and “cash for keys” offers presented as the last best chance for getting some help with moving are parts of how this is being done.

We’ve heard many stories about banks that have failed to provide heat and essential repairs post foreclosure, and we have only heard of a few cases where the bank has informed tenants of their right to stay as tenants of the bank.

Together, we as Worcester residents are turning situations around when we can reach people in time. And we need more help not only reaching people but to pressure the banks not to empty out our City but come to reasonable resolutions with our neighbors

Report finds MA housing “affordability crisis.” A great story in today’s Boston Globe

By Rosalie Tirella

A great story in the Boston Globe today (or go to Boston.com) re: just what InCity Times pointed out last issue: We have a “housing affordability crisis” in Massachusetts (and Worcester).

Contrary to what the greedy, fat-head brigade says in town, Worcester DOES NOT NEED MORE MARKET-RATE HOUSING. Worcester, along with every other city in Massachusetts, needs more affordable housing. Housing for working people, middle-class people, people who have jobs – and are still seeing almost half of their income go to rent (it should be about a third). Like single working moms – moms like the woman interviewed in the Glovbe story, written by Globe staff reporter Megan Woolhouse. The single mom Woolhouse interviewed said she makes $14 an hour working at FedEx and gets child support – and still uses most of her money on housing and necessities. A quote from Woolhouse’s piece:

“Sandra Cassio, a single mother, said the rent on her $1,300-a-month Dorchester apartment consumes about half her monthly paycheck. The 29-year-old cares for her two children and a nephew, and works part time at FedEx for $14 an hour. She also receives child support.

“The Dorchester apartment is also $200 more expensive than her last rental in South Boston, which Cassio had to leave when the landlord decided to renovate. She lives frugally to make ends meet; many of her furnishings are secondhand, given to her by friends and family.

” ‘You don’t want to be spending money on things that are not necessities,’’ Cassio said. “There is no ‘I want this.’ There is only ‘I need this.’ ‘ ”

This happens all over Worcester – every day!

Back to the Globe piece. This from a housing expert: “Belsky said low-income renters were most likely to be burdened by high rents because of an acute shortage of affordable housing. Apartment construction in recent years has been geared toward the upper-end market.”

These starting statistics, we all feel. We feel them as we watch Worcester Public school students leave one public school to go to another as they leave one apartment in Worcester to live in another, the bill collectors on their tails. We sem them in the instability in our neighborhoods because the families living in them are stressed to the max and are tired of moving, tired of being rootless. Domestic violence, violent crime – it all goes up.

More from the Globe story:

“The study, released yesterday, described an “affordability crisis’’ worsened by the recent recession, which eroded family incomes even as record foreclosures pushed more people into the rental market, driving up prices.

“As a result, 10.1 million US households, or one in four renters, spend more than half their earnings on rent and utilities. Another one in four households spends one-third to one-half of income on rent and utilities, according to the study.

“This squeeze, traditionally concentrated among lower-income families, is increasingly becoming a middle-class problem, according to the study. The percentage of middle-income families using 30 to 50 percent of their income for rent and utility payments more than doubled over the past decade, to 23 percent from 10 percent.”

Worcester does not need more $1,200 apartments – it needs more $650/$700 apartments. And if the Main South Community Development Corporation (CDC) and the other CDC’s in Worcester can build/rehab apartments, can do the job, along with big developers who get funds from the government if they build affordable housing, then I say BUILD ON! Build on CDCs and friends!!

We must not be bamboozled by a few fast talkers in town who wanna make a buck. When they build or rehab, they do not pay good wages to their carpenters or laborers. Construction workers at their jobs sites, do not get a salary to raise their families on – or pay their mortagages. The CDCs are the opposite. CDC’s use excellent building materials, excellent construction companies – who pay good wages – and they are – because they are nonprofit – forced to keep rents in their units affordable. And they don’t go into the business with the intent to “flip” their properties (to God knows who) to make a killing.

Let’s go Worcester CDC’s! Let’s build for Worcester!