LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The occupy movement began a new campaign Tuesday called “Occupy Our Homes” in an effort to retake properties that have been foreclosed on by mortgage holders.
About 50 people descended on a Riverside residence to move an evicted man back into the house he lost. Art De Los Santos blames his foreclosure on a bank’s refusal to negotiate with him on a modified mortgage.
He and other supporters of the “National Reoccupy Homes Day” event forced their way into the vacant three-bedroom, three-bath residence at 3270 Layton Court, in the city’s La Sierra neighborhood, at 3:50 p.m., carrying in furniture, including a cabinet, chairs and flat-screen television.
“I don’t know if this is gonna work,” said de los Santos, a 46-year-old metal worker and former U.S. Marine who was kicked out of the single-story house in July. “If I get arrested, it’s still worth it. I’m trying to get their (the bank’s) attention,” he told City News Service.
Demonstrators at De Los Santos’ former home were bused in by sponsors of the effort, including ReFund California, The New Bottom Line, ACCE, Take Back the Land, SOUL, the Service Employees International Union and New York Communities for Change.
They hung signs on the street-facing sides of the property. One stated: “JP Morgan Chase and Freddie Mac Aren’t Taking Our Home.” Another read, “Hold Banks Accountable.”
The protesters, including an 86-year-old woman with 32 grandchildren, circled the house, chanting, “Banks got bailed out; we got sold out!”
De Los Santos purchased the house in 2003 but fell behind on his mortgage payments in 2009, after business plummeted at the Santa Ana factory in which he’s employed as a supervisor.
He applied for a loan modification to pare down his monthly principal and interest costs, but he alleges representatives of Chase bank refused to accept the proposed terms and initiated foreclosure proceedings, forcing him and his family to vacate the home in July. The house has remained vacant since.
“He knew what was going on and had an attorney, trying to get this resolved and have the foreclosure rescinded,” said Francisco Perpely with Alpha One Group, a Riverside brokerage firm that took possession of the property on behalf of Freddy Mac, which underwrote Chase’s loan to de los Santos.
“The bank was more than helpful with him, trying to offer relocation assistance,” Perpely told CNS. “It ended up going to court, and a judge issued a writ (evicting de los Santos from the property).”
According to the broker, the house is now in legal “limbo” because de los Santos has filed for bankruptcy, listing the property among his assets.
According to Peggy Mears with the advocacy group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, this is just the beginning of the reoccupation campaign.
“Our goal is for the bank to work with this family on a meaningful (loan) modification,” Mears told CNS. “We will stay here until that happens or until the police tear down the door.”
Mears said 30 similar reclamations were undertaken nationwide today — in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.
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