Detroit homeowners & allies fight to stop evictions

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Published Jun 14, 2012 9:23 PM

Efforts are underway in Metro 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 their homes, when they should be entitled to assistance through already existing housing programs.

Jackson, who has needed to use a wheelchair since age 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 that rents were too high and he would be better off purchasing a home.

Jackson, whose income is $600 a 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 a month, only part of which is paid by Jackson.

Despite these promises, assistance from the banks and the county government did not happen, and Jackson soon went into default on the mortgage. At present Fannie Mae, a taxpayer-paid and government-owned entity, is attempting to evict him from his home in Inkster.

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

According to a statement issued by attorney Bob Day, Steve Babson of People Before Banks and A. J. Freer of UAW Local 600, “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.”

Advocating in court on behalf of Jackson, Day 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.

Keep Jennifer Britt in her home

Another egregious action by the financial institutions is the case of Jennifer Britt. A widow, Britt went through a family emergency and the loss of employment and fell behind on her mortgage payments to Flagstar Bank. The bank foreclosed on her home in the Rosedale Park section of Detroit in 2010. The property is now owned by government-controlled Fannie Mae, which carries out many of the evictions in the Detroit area and around the U.S.

A statement issued by Britt’s supporters notes: “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.”

In February, 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 bank has yet to pay back the $267 million bailout it received from the federal government in 2008.

On June 16, there will be a demonstration to demand that Britt be allowed to remain in her home. It will take place at the Dearborn Heights Flagstar branch at 26545 Ford Road from 11 a.m. to noon.

Moratorium attorney appeals sanctions

People’s attorney 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 Court Judge Robert Colombo.

In 2011, Fluker was sanctioned and fined $12,000 for what Colombo said was filing a “frivolous” brief to stall the eviction of a homeowner by CCO Mortgage, a division of the Royal Bank of Scotland. The homeowner sought to examine the relevancy of a racial discrimination complaint brought against the bank and how it related to her case.

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

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