Occupy Housing’s DIY Foreclosure Prevention: Don’t try this at home?

Occupy Seattle squatters

When I saw a headline this morning reading, Occupy protesters turn to foreclosures, it reminded me of repossession riots predicted in “Countdown to a Meltdown: America’s coming economic crisis,” a fictionalized look back at the presidential election of 2016 — not 2012 — published in Atlantic Magazine more than six years ago!

Questions raced through my head:

  • Are #OccupyHomes protests a step towards repossession riots?
  • Are these isolated interventions or really the beginng of a nationwide movement?
  • Is it frightening or appropriate that these actions are taking place an election cycle earlier than predicted in James Fallows’ prophetic perspective in Atlantic Magazine in July 2005?

To begin to answer those questions, I took a step back to read some of the press coverage unfolding across the internet — more than 750 news stories yesterday accoding to Google News. After describing several interventions that, at least on the surface, seemed to be just, one article reached a decidedly upbeat assessment:

Occupy Our Homes seems like an immensely promising direction for the movement, harnessing its DIY energy to the needs of real people.”

Curiously, or perhaps appropriately, not a single word was said about the occupy housing movementat a quarterly meeting of the Foreclosed Properties Task Force yesterday in Massachusetts hosted byCHAPA —Citizen’s Planning and Housing Association. The meeting included housing professionals from community organizations around the state, representatives from federal, state, and local governments, and quasi-public organizations including Fannie Mae.  Their comprehensive agenda included updates on (1) foreclosure prevention, (2) loan modification programs, (3) neighborhood stabilization programs, (4) court decisions involving foreclosures, (5) conversions of foreclosed properties into affordable housing, both rental and ownership, and (5) the Mass Attorney General’s suit against loan servicers. While the meeting got no press coverage, it’s important to look at the extensive coverage given #OccupyHomes — particularly simplistic videos — in this broader, solution-oriented context.

Yes, a stunning 10 million plus properties are vacant nationwide and some policy initiatives and regulatory actions by government and banks have been misguided, weak, ineffective, or are overdue. So press coverage like 60 Minutes hard hitting story on Prosecuting Wall Street this weekend are a godsend.  As a progressive buyer agency with a long history of consumer advocacy, the Real Estate Cafe shares the goal of organizing victims of foreclosure.  But Occupy activists would be wise to think twice before involving foreclosure victims in illegal occupations, like squatting in vacant homes, thereby undermining the housing justice they seek. If they become aware of (or even coordinate actions with?) the extensive foreclosure prevention counseling infrastructure and billions of dollars being mobilized to help households facing foreclosure, their interventions are more likely to be welcomed.  That seems to be the case in Brooklyn:

“When we first got to know her, she was just at the end of her rope,” says Sean Barry, Vocal-NY’s director. “She had no idea what she was going to do. She felt like she had no options. To then see her today, when she just feels so emboldened, is deeply inspiring.” It’s not clear, of course, how long she’ll be able to stay in the new house, but Barry hopes the police will leave her alone. “I don’t think the police are going to be in any mood to mount a raid of this homeless family that the neighbors and elected officials are welcoming with open arms,” he says. If this urban homesteading operation is successful, more are almost certain to follow, giving occupation a whole new meaning.

As Occupy protestors and housing professionals agree, some homeowners have been victims of insufficient, irregular or even illegal actions. If you think that’s your case, you may be eligible for aFREE foreclosure review, so visit http://IndependentForeclosureReview.com

If you are unemployed and underemployed, an array of government programs already exists and are being expanded to put off mortgage payments for up to 12 months. For more information, click on the button below and we’ll email you one of the handouts from the CHAPA meeting yesterday.

Choose non-profit housing counseling age

PS. If you feel like you’re falling through the financial safety net, would a psychological and spiritual safety net help you through the holidays?  Contact us if you’d like to join or organize a local prayer / support group for households facing foreclosure.

Photo credit:  Elaine Thompson, AP in article entitled New Occupy tactic on West Coast: squatting, published in The Columbian.

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