Moratorium Struggle Continues In Michigan

Moratorium Struggle Continues In Michigan

Homeowners fight to remain in their communities

 By Abayomi Azikiwe

Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Efforts are underway in metropolitan Detroit to save the homes of Jerome Jackson of Inkster and Jennifer Britt of Rosedale Park. Both cases reveal that the banks and the federal government have not paused in their years-long policy of evicting people from homes when they should be entitled to assistance through supposedly already existing housing programs.

Jerome Jackson, who has been confined to a wheelchair since he was 14, is waging a campaign with supporters to halt an eviction from his home of a decade. Ten years ago Jackson was living in an apartment in downtown Detroit when he was convinced by Wayne County Community Living Services (CLS) that rents were too high and that he would be better off purchasing a home.

Jackson, whose income is $600 per month, was promised assistance through CLS, PNC Bank and Liberty Tree Housing in order to make payments on a mortgage for the home. The mortgage was $900 per month, only part of which is paid by Jackson.

Despite these promises, the assistance from the banks and the county government was not forthcoming and Jackson soon went into default on the mortgage. At present Fannie Mae is attempting to evict him from his home in Inkster.

Several community organizations and labor activists have come to Jackson’s aid. On June 7 at a hearing in the 22nd District Court in Inkster, members of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs, Occupy Detroit, UAW Local 600, People Before Banks Coalition and other groups packed the courtroom and set up a picket line outside.

Attorney Bob Day, advocating on behalf of Jackson, won an adjournment of the eviction proceedings for 60 days in an effort to work out a settlement with the government and the banks. The attorney representing Fannie Mae at the hearing did not object to the adjournment.

Earlier that same day, the Wayne County Commission passed a resolution in support of Jackson’s efforts to remain in his home. According to a statement issued by Bob Day, Steve Babson of People Before Banks and A. J. Freer of UAW Local 600, “Jerome and his sister Jettowynne have asked for community support, and the UAW, Warriors on Wheels, Occupy Detroit, and other organizations have joined in the campaign to save his home.”

This same statement also says that “The lender, the builder, CLS and Wayne County all knew and understood that the only way Jerome Jackson could purchase his home was with regular housing support from CLS. Now when CLS decides to stop paying, they all agree that Jerome Jackson should be evicted from his home.”

Jennifer Britt Wants to Remain in Rosedale Park

Another egregious action by the financial institutions is represented by the case of Jennifer Britt, a widow, who through a family emergency and the loss employment fell behind on mortgage payments to Flagstar Bank.  The bank foreclosed on the home in 2010 and the property is now owned by the government-controlled Fannie Mae.

Fannie Mae in 2008 was bailed out by the tax dollars of working people in the United States. Many of the evictions which are being carried out in the Detroit area are conducted by Fannie Mae.

In a statement issued by supporters of Britt it states that “Jennifer now has a job and could make reasonable mortgage payments if Flagstar and Fannie Mae agreed to work with her. State and federal programs call for mortgage modifications to keep people in their homes. There is no good reason why Jennifer and her family should be evicted, leaving another vacant house in Detroit.”

Flagstar was assessed $133 million in fines by the federal government for fraudulent loan practices extending back over a decade. At the same time the banks is yet to pay back the $267 million bailout it received from the government in 2008.

On June 16 there will be a demonstration to demand that Britt be allowed to remain in the home. The protest will take place at Flagstar Dearborn Heights Branch located at 26545 Ford Road, from 11:00am-Noon.

Moratorium Attorney Appeals Sanctions

Atty. Vanessa Fluker, one of the foremost lawyers fighting to keep people in their homes, appeared before the Michigan Court of Appeals on June 5 in an effort to overturn sanctions leveled against her by Wayne County Circuit Judge Robert Colombo.

During 2011, Fluker was sanctioned and fined $12,000 for what Colombo said was the filing of a frivolous brief designed to stall the eviction of a homeowner by Charter One, which is owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland. The homeowner facing foreclosure in Detroit sought to examine the relevancy of a racial discrimination complaint brought against Charter One.

Atty. Jerome Goldberg, who argued on Fluker’s behalf, said that the sanctions were unwarranted and unjustified under Michigan law. Supporters of Fluker packed the courtroom during the hearing before a three-judge panel. A decision has yet to be issued.

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition was formed in the Spring of 2008 and through its efforts the struggle to halt home seizures by the banks and the government has spread throughout the country. A congressional bill was recently introduced by Hansen Clarke which would provide for a three year moratorium and an automatic principle write-down on underwater mortgages.

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition held a national conference on March 31 in Detroit which attracted over 150 people from various parts of the country including California, New York, North Carolina, Illinois and Oregon. Resolutions were passed which called for support for a national moratorium and the endorsement of the March Against Wall Street South outside the Democratic National Convention on September 2 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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