Tag Archives: foreclosure

Extra! Exra!

Even the busiest weekend plans have room for friendly smile and a good read. So swing by the local turf tomorrow morning and pick up the latest edition of Street Roots. Your vendor will thank you and you’ll be glad you’ve got your copy before they sell out! Here’s what’s rolling on the press now:

Natalie Merchant: An discussion with the former 10,000 Maniac’s front woman about her life today, her passion for music for all ages, and her latest tour.

Veterans could soon join ranks of specialty courts: Multnomah County is preparing to start a special veterans-only docket to address the circumstances behind former soldiers caught up in criminal behavior. Service providers who to learn why so many veterans who had no problems in the service, return to enter our criminal justice system.

Lenders bypass foreclosure mediation law: Created to help keep Oregonians in their homes, the state program appears thwarted by bank tactics.

Realtors’ constitutional rewrite: The national push to end real estate transfer taxes has one real estate agent crying foul.

Plus, commentaries by police activist Jo Ann Hardesty and Portland Police Chief Mike Reese on the latest report on the Portland Police Bureau, words of wisdom from Mel Favara and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, and more news and poetry from the homeless front. Get your edition early, and spare a smile or two for your fellow reader. Thank you!

Oregon hold ’em: Mediation efforts ramp up for foreclosure victims

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

Housing and consumer advocates are eagerly counting down to July 11.

That is the day the provisions of the state’s new mandatory mediation law, passed by the Oregon Legislature earlier this year, go into effect.

The law requires banks to enter into mediation with homeowners 60 days before their home is foreclosed upon. Homeowners at risk of foreclosure — people, for instance, who have not paid their mortgages for a few months — are also eligible for mediation.

Mediation enables a representative of the bank and the homeowner to sit down for a one-on-one conversation regarding the homeowner’s situation. The hope, from consumer advocate’s point of view, is that the mediation process will reveal at least one option allowing the homeowner to stay in their home.

Oregon posted its highest foreclosure rate ever in the first quarter of 2012, at 3.86 percent. This translates to a total of 23,335 loans in the foreclosure process in Oregon.

The program would not be possible without the neary $30 million Oregon received in April as the result of the national mortgage settlement agreement reached between state attorneys general and the five major financial institutions deemed most responsible for the nation’s foreclosure crisis — Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Ally Financial, and Citigroup.

A fraction of those dollars — $7.6 million — was allocated in late May by the Legislature’s Emergency Board, a joint board of senators and representatives that meet when the Legislature is not in session.

Approximately $3.9 million will be used to start the mediation program, which will be overseen by the Department of Justice. The rest was given to Oregon’s Community and Housing Services agency to increase legal assistance to homeowners, expand the state’s network of housing counselors, and fund outreach efforts to find homeowners facing foreclosure who are eligible for mediation and other services. Continue reading

Neighborhoods grapple with remnants of the foreclosure crisis: empty homes

Foreclosed, vacant and boarded up, this house on North Buffalo Street is one of hundreds in post-foreclosure limbo across the city, housing advocates say. Photo by Ken Hawkins

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

The house at 1310 N. Buffalo St. has been vacant and boarded up for four years.

It’s last owner died in 2008. The house was left to the man’s family, but he had become estranged from them. Not wanting anything to do with him, even in death, they didn’t want to keep the house.

Perhaps they could have sold it. But their deceased family member had taken out a large loan on the house for renovations, one so large that the house was worth less than the loan amount after the recession caused property values to decline.

They decided to walk away from the house, sending it into foreclosure.

“Nobody blames them,” says Chris Duffy, president of the Arbor Lodge neighborhood association, where the house is located. “They simply wanted to let it go and have nothing to do with it.” Continue reading

May Day demonstrators ‘liberate’ foreclosed home

Alicia Jackson addresses the crowd outside her foreclosed home.
Photo by Amanda Waldroupe

By Amanda Waldroupe
Staff Writer

A couple hundred people rallied in Woodlawn Park this morning as part of a May Day event to “liberate” a foreclosed home left vacant since August and help Alicia Jackson, who previously owned the home, to move back in.

The rally and action was organized by We Are Oregon, an SEIU-backed advocacy organization; the Portland Liberation Organization Council (PLOC), a spinoff group from Occupy Portland, and the Black Working Group, another spinoff organization from Occupy Portland largely focused on issues and concerns to African Americans living in north and northeast Portland.

The groups rallied to protest the continuing foreclosure crisis in Portland and the number of people forced to leave their homes because they are unable to get loan modifications from banks, or other assistance.

“This isn’t a rally,” said Ahjamu Umi, representing the Black Working Group. “This is taking control of our lives from the crooks and criminals that run the country.”

“When you have a system where banks get money when they need to be bailed out, and people don’t get money when they need to be bailed out…it doesn’t have any legitimacy,” said a spokesperson for PLOC who gave his name as “Meddle.”

After about an hour of speeches and rallying in Woodlawn Park, participants marched down NE Dekum St., accompanied by a police escort. They shouted, “The people! United! Will never be defeated!” as they marched.

They stopped at 523 NE Bryant St. The one-story red brick home had been vacant since August, when Alicia Jackson moved out because of foreclosure.

The home’s lockbox had been broken, and Jackson used that key to enter through the side door of her home. She walked through and opened the front door to a cheering crowd who shouted “Welcome home!”

Jackson was clearly overwhelmed by the number of people rallying in her support and by being back in her home. “I don’t even know what to say,” she said. “There is no place like home.”


Life after foreclosure: Organizers seek answers, solutions through the fog…

By Joanne Zuhl, Staff Writer

For the hundreds of thousands of homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure, who felt robbed of their investment and lied to by the institutions that sold them on the American Dream, there is Good Grief America. The name sums up the frustration and disillusionment of former homeowners now trying to survive the aftershocks of the foreclosure crisis.

Nancie Koerber, along with Mark Thomas, started the nonprofit in August, an extension of the Southern Oregon Homeowner Support Group. The organization came together as a moral support group for homeowners in foreclosure and a way to find solutions, but soon became much more. It is now a a network focused on education and research into the causes and possible recourse to this catastrophic failure.

While it does not directly give legal or tax advice, Good Grief America brings together homeowners, lawyers, advocacy groups and political leaders to explore resource that will help people stay in their homes longer, or even permanently. It has trained hundreds of homeowners in Oregon on their rights and options, with more calling and writing for help every day.

Koerber, who lives in Central Point, spoke to Street Roots about Good Grief America and the trauma foreclosure is having on families and communities.

Joanne Zuhl: What stories were you hearing from homeowners that prompted you to launch Good Grief America? You talk about providing moral support for those suffering foreclosure loss. You speak of it as a grieving process. This is more than a material loss.

Nancie Koerber: Myself and my husband are homeowners that are dealing with the problem and we started talking to a few friends that were in the same situation. They invited a few more and the group has grown to over 400 families now in Oregon. We are also receiving calls from all over the nation. Continue reading

Foreclosure’s fallout: What we’ve really lost after the housing investment meltdown

By Kaia Sand, Contributing Writer

At the end of October, with little fanfare, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger joined a class action lawsuit against Bear Stearns, now owned by one of the world’s largest banking institutions, J.P. Morgan Chase.

Several weeks before Kroger joined the Bear Stearns lawsuit, he also teamed up with all other state attorney generals for a 50-state review of foreclosure improprieties.

The lawsuit and investigation are two efforts to chip away at the foreclosure behemoth that continues to rock the economic and social stability of Oregon and the nation.

Banks deemed too-big-to-fail might seem too-big-to-challenge. But attorney generals are now flexing their collective muscle.

“An individual attorney general on his or her own has little leverage,” explained Peter Letsou, Associate Dean of the Willamette School of Law. “They are much more effective as a force when they group together.”

Tony Green, Communications and Policy Director for the Oregon Department of Justice, declined comment on his subject matter because his office does not comment on pending lawsuits or investigations.

The two actions highlight how the foreclosure crisis pervades all aspects of the economy. The lawsuit focuses on recovering public funds while the investigation scrutinizes foreclosures that are forcing both homeowners and renters out of homes at record levels. The rate of foreclosure in Oregon has increased more than 500 percent since 2006, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.

Houses are an emblem of this recession, or more precisely, foreclosed houses are—shells of shelter gaping in our landscape. But the reckless speculation on housing did more than result in foreclosures, and more than plummet investments for public funds. Our entire economic foundation is changed.

Such a crisis lowers employment, said Lewis and Clark economics professor Eric Tymoigne, and the crisis lowers tax revenue and increases spending in the form of unemployment insurance and other costs of increased poverty.

A wide view of the problem includes the gutted state and local budgets. The Oregon state budget is $3.5 billion short of needed funds to preserve the current level of state services.

Meanwhile, the federal government’s anti-foreclsure Home Affordable Modification Program, passed last March, is having little impact. It was intended to prevent 3 million to 4 million foreclosures. But a report released in December by the Congressional Oversight Panel shows that it is only expected to prevent 700,000 foreclosures, less than one-fourth of those intended. The promised lower mortgage payments have yet to be granted.

Attorney General John Kroger’s efforts represent a fight back at the profiteers that are mostly unscathed: JP Morgan Chase reported a net income of $4.4 billion for the third-quarter of 2010. Continue reading