BOSTON, MA – On Wednesday, March 13, over 150 residents and activists form Chelsea Collaborative, City Life/Vida Urbana, Chinese Progressive Association, Lynn United for Change, UNITE HERE Local 26 and other local groups joined the national Right to the City Alliance in launching the Homes for All Campaign in 11 cities across the country to draw attention to the nationwide housing crisis.
The group marched from State Street T station to Fannie Mae’s Boston office at 265 Franklin Street to demand principal correction on 3 million underwater homes. Homeowners affected by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shared their stories and demanded that as public institutions Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac work with those affected by foreclosure to keep families in the homes. Supporters left messages via chalk on the sidewalk of the Fannie Mae offices. From Fannie Mae, group marched to Bank of America’s offices at 100 Federal Street to highlight their role in the foreclosure crisis and demand the bank negotiate with homeowners. The march ended in Chinatown in front of 19-25 Harrison Avenue, where tenants were forced out of their homes over a year ago, because conditions in the building were found so unsafe. Speakers highlighted the need for safe affordable housing and speak to how they’ve been affected by the housing crisis.
Right to the City Boston Homes for All protest included chalk messages on sidewalks. Image courtesy of Martinez.E.
Earlier that day, Ramon Suero and members of City Life Vida Urbana, UNITE HERE Local 26, Chelsea Collaborative and Lynn United for Change met with Alfred Pollard, General Counsel for FHFA. Ramon along with Fannie/Freddie Freedom fighters address him directly and push back on policy decisions that are not working. Mr. Pollard met with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office after this meeting.
“I have three young children and a wife. When I lost my job, and my wife had to care for her ill parent, we got behind on our mortgage,” says Ramon Suero of City Life Vida Urbana and UNITE HERE Local 26. “Freddie Mac foreclosed on my home, but I was able to get financing to buy back the home at its current value. Freddie Mac wouldn’t negotiate with me. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are government-run lenders and should be working with people to keep them in their homes.”
“Part of Fannie Mae’s mission is to help families,” says Moses Ehibabhi of Lynn United for Change in front of Fannie Mae’s office. “Instead they are breaking up families and communities and boarding up houses… rather than letting foreclosed homeowners buy their homes back.”
According to the National Consumer Law Project’s “At a Crossroads Report,” up to 10 million underwater homeowners will lose their home to foreclosure over the next four years. In addition, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, reports that 20 million households are paying more than 30% of their income to rent. More than half of them are paying more than 50% of their income to rent.
“I moved into my apartment 12 years ago and rented from the owner who lived upstairs. In March of 2010 the home was foreclosed by Fannie Mae and basically abandoned,” says Rafael Abarca of Chelsea Collaborative. “After fighting Fannie Mae in court and forcing them to do repairs, an investor bought our apartment in November. The very next month, he asked for a rent increase of $300 even though he had not done any repairs AND he had told us that he would only increase the rent ‘the bare minimum.’ We are seeing these types of increases across Chelsea and more Latino families having to move out of the City because they cannot find an apartment.”
Residents call upon President Obama and local officials to preserve and expand affordable, public, and community controlled housing. They say they want to continue to reclaim, remain in, and rebuild their cities to stabilize working class neighborhoods and communities of color.
“We need to demand increased federal investment in public and affordable housing and establish zoning mechanisms that stabilize the community,” says Mark Liu of the Chinese Progressive Association. “We want to reclaim land for our communities. Every parcel of public land must be used community benefit, such as permanently affordable housing, urban gardens, or land lease fees to the community. We want to rebuild. Use City (eminent domain) powers and linkage funds to help non-profits purchase foreclosed and abandoned properties and convert them into permanently affordable housing. For a building like 19-25 Harrison, a rooming house that has been occupied since tenants were evacuated a year ago, we call on the City to work with residents and community members to assure that this building remains affordable and that this landlord is held accountable.”
The action was in coordination with 10 cities nationwide to kick off the Homes for All Campaign, including Atlanta, Oakland, Springfield, Seattle, Miami, New York, Providence, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Santa Fe, culminating in a Washington DC launch on March 18th in conjunction with the National Low Income Housing Coalition. More information: http://www.homesforall.org.