CREDIT: Occupy Our Homes Atlanta
Jacqueline Barber, a homeowner in Atlanta, GA, will be able to stay in her home despite the bank auctioning it off in foreclosure.
Barber, a retired police detective who is also fighting a form of blood and bone marrow cancer, won a buyback, or the ability to buy her home from the bank at or below the home’s rock bottom market value, with the help of Occupy Our Homes Atlanta (OOHA), Tim Franzen of American Friends Service Committee, who works closely with OOHA, told ThinkProgress. A nonprofit organization that wishes to remain anonymous helped Barber come up with the cash for the downpayment, and while she will pay into a fund to cover that payment for the next 18 months, the nonprofit “is committed to not make a cent off the deal,” Franzen said.
Barber’s story is a typical one from the housing boom. She was living comfortably off of disability and pension payments, but a friend in real estate showed her a bigger house and even took out a loan for it in her name. But just as the city made budget cuts that meant she would no longer receive disability, her payments doubled thanks to the fact that her loan was an adjustable rate mortgage. While she immediately started trying to work on a modification, which her original bank Wells Fargo worked with her on, it also dual tracked her into foreclosure. She received the letter from Wells Fargo saying it was working on her modification the same day that her home was auctioned in foreclosure. “In Georgia, it’s perfectly legal to dual track,” Franzen pointed out.
But while she bought the house at $300,000 and ended up owing $450,000 with interest and fees, the home’s value had cratered to $150,000, a sum she had more than enough to cover with her pension benefits.
So OOHA worked to help her. By the time the organization got involved, US Bank was the trustee and Ocwen was the servicer of the loan, so OOHA held actions at bank branches and headquarters in both Atlanta and Minneapolis and launched a 24-hour occupation of her home to defend it from eviction.
Barber’s happy ending stands out in an era of rampant bank malfeasance and wrongful foreclosures. There are countless stories of homeowners who were dual-tracked into foreclosure while working on modifications, including one man who was making higher payments than required by the bank during the trial period. Paperwork errors have also been widespread, with one homeowner’s house sold in foreclosure despite the fact that she is current on her mortgage.
While banks have been ordered to end the practices of dual tracking, it still continues. They have also been found guilty of “robo-signing” mortgages, in which they had employees sign off on thousands of foreclosures without verifying the necessary information. Banks may have also illegally foreclosed on thousands of members of the military.
This post has been changed to reflect the fact that US Bank was the trustee and Ocwen was the servicer of Barber’s loan.