Seattle Foreclosure Fighters
A group of Seattle residents fighting to protect housing from foreclosure.
HOLD THE LAND!
JOIN US IN CREATING COMMUNITY RESISTANCE TO FORECLOSURE!
The Mitchell Story:
The Mitchells are presently fighting to save their home in the Central District of Seattle from being foreclosed on by predatory lender Ocwen Loan Servicing, which changed its name from Litton Loan Servicing in 2010. (Ocwen is New Co. spelled backwards.)
Why are the Mitchells important?
The Mitchells are senior citizens in their 70s. Mr. Mitchell is presently
permanently disabled, is living on his Railroad Retirement pension, and is coping with several serious illnesses, including cancer, diabetes, the aftermath of a stroke, and depression; Mrs. Mitchell is presently not just a hub for her 9 biological children, but literally scores of the 50 foster children she and Mr. Mitchell raised in their house where they have lived for 44 years. It would be extremely difficult for them to move, be it from social perspective, a service perspective, or a medical perspective.
Why does this matter to the Black community? Predatory lending overwhelmingly affects communities of color, namely Black and Hispanic families; it doesn't take a study to show that a significant chunk of “Bank owned properties” in Seattle are in the Rainier Valley, the Central District, and deep Southwest Seattle. In fact, the Washington State Budget & Policy Center stated in 2006 that “over 40 percent of the mortgages lent to African Americans and Hispanics were high cost…” “High cost” is a polite way to say “predatory lending.”
The Central District, which was just over 60% Black in 1980, has become a predominantly White neighborhood. The forces of gentrification, from banks to estate agents to developers to Seattle's former mayors and most of its city council, have been consistently promoting “diversification” of the CD. Interestingly, there’s been little to no concerted effort to “diversify” Magnolia or Laurelhurst. Gentrification in the United States almost always targets Black and Hispanic families, and Seattle is no exception. The Mitchells' block of 40+ homes used to be all Black. Today, the Mitchells are one of three Black homes left.
The truth of the CD's “diversification” has been literally a white-wash UNdiversification, a nearly complete strangulation of Black-owned enterprise and Black-owned institutions and an intense disruption of Black unity as so many long-time CD residents have been and continue to be displaced to more remote regions. The loss of land ownership coupled with the obscene incarceration rates make the distinctions between chattel slavery of old and today's way of life in the working class African American community to some degree cosmetic, and this reflects a serious crime against humanity.
Twin Capital, the originator of the loan, sold the Mitchells on an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM), employing deceptive tactics to state that the mortgage rate of 6.5% would be somehow fixed; in fact, the loan was sold to Encorp/Litton, and the rate “adjusted” to 10%, and the Mitchells’ payments skyrocketed by over $1000 to $2568 a month. Mr. Mitchell was laid off and then suffered a stroke; the bank moved to foreclose, the Mitchells filed for bankruptcy (chapter 13 bankruptcy would prevent seizure and allow restructuring), and Mrs. Mitchell went to the Urban League for help; the Urban League promised her $5000 in mortgage aid for finishing a course and went so far as to use Mrs. Mitchell in a photo op with Governor Christine Gregoire, but the Urban League failed her as it has failed much of Seattle’s Black community and never gave her a penny even though it admits she completed the class. There’s been deceptive news coverage (KOMO claims Mrs. Mitchell “gambled away” her house, very much not true) and the lawyer the Mitchells hired proved to instead be helping Litton by submitting motions to the bankruptcy court asking that her house be liquidated to pay off both Litton and his own expensive attorney's fee.
Seven years of resistance and counting!
In 2008, the Mitchells temporarily warded off the seizure of their home by filing for bankruptcy protection, citing the inflated monthly payments that they could not longer pay . But the term of the bankruptcy protection has now expired.
What the Mitchells seek is to keep the house within their family and social community.
In 2010, they applied for a loan modification under the guidelines of the Federal Treasury's HAMP program and the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009. They are still pursuing this modification request, and are hopeful that they will be able to negotiate such a modification with the creditor so they can stay in the home.
The mortgage company stalled for a year by pretending they had not received various pages of the application, no matter how many times these pages were faxed and mailed to them. The mortgage company also was somewhat ambiguous during this time as to whether it was doing business under the name of "Litton Loan" or "Ocwen Loan". (Observe that "Ocwen" is "New co." spelled backwards.)
Finally, late in the summer of 2011, they admitted they had complete application, but unilaterally announced that they were refusing to modify the Mitchells' loan and were moving to seize their house.
THE SHOWDOWN OF OCTOBER!
THE SITUATION WAS URGENT!
Ocwen Loan, one of the companies that claims to own title to Dixie and Luster's home scheduled a "Trustee's Sale", announcing that they would sell the home at acution to the highest bidder on October 28th, 2011 in the ground floor lobby of the King County Administration building.
Their are a number of legal flaws in the mortgage company's claim that it owns free and clear title to the Mitchell home, and the Mitchells are sought to challenge these claims. One glaring flaw is that Litton/Ocwen's claim to title depends on the legitimacy of its claim to have recieved ownership of the home from a notoriously shady securities transfer company called Mortgate Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), which is now under investigation for fraud by many state attorneys and judges. The Mitchells and Foreclosure Fighters put out an urgent call for the help of any movement lawyer who was willing to intervene against this illegal sale.
Meanwhile, we called upon all honest men and women in the Seattle area to help us defend the Mitchell's home by any means necessary.
Our call was answered by many upstanding individuals, and by a number of important organizations, including OUR Washington, Washington CAN, and the offices of John Long Law and Associates of Issiquah. OUR Washington created an online petition calling upon Ocwen to negotiate with Dixie Mitchell in good faith, and prevailed upon Washington State´s housing councelors to require Ocwen to enter a mediation with the Mitchells. Washington CAN successfully convinced MSNBC to conduct an exclusive live TV interview with Dixie MItchell during the opening week of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. John Long, Debra James and Austin Bryant of the lawfirm John Long Law stepped forward to represent the Mitchells por bono. With the combined help of these foreces, a press conference and rally was organized in front of the Mitchell house less than two weeks before the auction hammer would have come down. At the same moment, a delegation of citizens in Florida, acting in solidarity with the Mitchells, personally delivered a copy of Dixie´s request for loan modification to Ocwen's corporate headquarters, and publicly demanded, in front of TV cameras, that Ocwen's officers honor the request. Ocwen called Dixie in the middle of the press conference and announced to her that it intended to approve her request for a loan modification, and withdraw her house from the auction block.
Ocwen is still charging the Mitchell family an inflated and exhorbitant mortgage rate each month in order to keep staying in their home. The MItchells continue to negotiate with Ocwen in order to bring this predatory rate down, and to keep paying guests in the home in order to keep the auction hammer from coming back. John Long Law continues to represent the MItchells pro bono, and Seattle Foreclosure Fighters continues active support for this cause.
Meanwhile, Foreclosure Fighters is now seeking to extend our struggle to more than just one house, more than just one family, and more than just one neighborhood. An eviction of one is an eviction of all!
Join foreclosure fighters!
Who are Foreclosure Fighters?
We are a group of family, friends, law students, workers, and others who are
organizing to assist the Mitchells and people like them in their pursuit to keep their homes. We also intend to build a community-based response to foreclosures beyond the Mitchells' particular situation. We welcome new individual and organizational members.
The Mitchells may feel like one unfortunate story amongst many, but they represent so
much more: an example of predatory lending, of a family committed to protecting a rapidly vanishing community in the Central District, and most importantly as an example of how the legal and financial systems often deny mercy to those who need it most.