Occupy Movement

Occupy Atlanta Saves a Home from Foreclosure

By Gwynedd Stuart

“She bought the home while making a higher pay-grade, she was a staff sergeant in the army when she bought the home. Then she was forced to retire after her unit was hit by mortar. She had metal plates put in her spine and was not allowed to serve any longer. Her disability pay was less than half of what she was making when she bought the house. With PTSD it’s difficult to hold down a normal job. She struggled to make payments and started the “modification” process about a year-and-a-half ago. Chase sent multiple denials. Then we occupied the home, put the media spotlight and direct action on Chase and within a week they offered her something at a fixed rate for 30 years that she is able to cover fairly comfortably with her disability payments (which she will be receiving for the rest of her life).” —Rob Call, Atlanta Occupier [This explanation was sent separately via email —Socialist Viewpoint]

Occupy Atlanta is announcing today that the owner of a home they’ve been occupying in Riverdale has struck a deal with her mortgage holder.

An injured Iraq vet who was involuntarily retired from the Army in 2007, Brigitte Walker fell behind on her mortgage and was being threatened with foreclosure by JP Morgan Chase after unsuccessful attempts to modify her loan. After a three-week occupation of the home by a handful of members of Occupy Atlanta, the bank agreed to a loan modification Monday morning.

Last week, CL [Creative Loafing] ran a guest editorial by Elizabeth Warren, a real estate investor who defended the foreclosure auctions that Occupy Atlanta has protested in recent months. Warren wrote, “I know how difficult things have been for many Americans. I also know that throwing families out of their homes looks bad. But I’m frustrated that all the news stories about last week’s event were from the protestors’ point of view. Reporting on peoples’ emotions can certainly add context to a story, but emotions can cloud fact.”

Whether or not emotions cloud fact, it appears that Walker’s story—and the attention that was drawn to her plight by the occupiers—is what finally got through to the bank, convincing them to work with her.

In light of the new development—a big victory for the movement—Occupy organizer and spokesman Tim Franzen wanted to respond to Warren’s column. Here’s what he had to say (co-written with Shabnam Bashiri) ...

“In late November, Brigitte Walker, a decorated Iraq War veteran received another foreclosure notice. Brigitte had unsuccessfully tried to modify her loan with Chase Bank since she medically retired from the army as a result of combat related injuries in 2007. Her home was set to be sold on the Fulton County Courthouse steps on January 3rd, whether she was in it or not. Instead of making holiday plans or putting up a Christmas tree, Brigitte and her girlfriend Ajai were worried about losing their home. On a whim, Brigitte sent an email to Georgia state senator Vincent Fort, who set up a meeting with Occupy Atlanta. On December 6, after leaving the very same auction where Brigitte’s home was to be sold the following month, we started occupying her home.

“The sad reality is that countless families in Georgia have their homes auctioned off at county court houses every month. Many believe that homes auctioned on the court house steps are unoccupied. This is not true; Occupy Atlanta has seen multiple families begging auctioneers not to sell their homes. For many, this auction is the last nail in the coffin of their American dream, their home. Let’s not get it twisted, the auctioning of occupied foreclosed homes in Georgia is nasty business.

“In Georgia, the foreclosure process can begin after just one missed payment. The lender then sets a sale date for that home to be auctioned off, and publishes the sale notice in the county paper. They are only required to give the homeowner 30 days’ notice, and there is no requirement that the homeowner receives the notice, only that it is sent. If the sale goes through, there is no right of redemption in Georgia, meaning there is no way for a homeowner to reclaim their home. Disrupting the auction of a home literally gives a family one more month of housing, and in some cases one more chance to save their home.

“A six to nine month moratorium on evictions and foreclosures would allow time for bank inflated home values to be re-assessed to realistic payable levels. The banks’ irresponsible practices played a huge role in our current crisis. In their time of need we bailed them out. Now it’s their turn to do the right thing, to stop holding our economy hostage.

“After two press conferences on her lawn, a national call in day, and direct action on Chase Bank, Occupy Atlanta did what Brigitte Walker couldn’t do in years, get a loan modification. If it weren’t for Occupy Atlanta’s “simplistic approach” Brigitte Walker would have had her American Dream auctioned off on the Fulton county court house steps. Instead Brigitte Walker and her family can breathe easy knowing they can continue to live the American dream of home ownership.

“Winning Brigitte’s home is a win for the people. It should be a call for Georgians to fight for their homes, and fight for their neighbors’ homes. Let’s not forget, we outnumber the bank executives.”

Creative Loafing Atlanta, December 20, 2011