Save Jennifer Britt’s Detroit home
Home foreclosures and evictions are still plaguing people throughout the United States. Since 2007, the world economic crisis inside the leading capitalist states has displaced millions of people and drained trillions of dollars in home values, tax revenues and jobs from working people and oppressed communities.
In Detroit, the struggle for a moratorium or halt on foreclosures began five years ago through the efforts of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice and later the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs, which was formed in 2008.
In 2012, the city is still being devastated by the banks, but with a new twist. Jerry Goldberg, an activist attorney who is a long-time defender of people threatened with losing their homes, says that today, the federal government entity Fannie Mae — with direct taxpayer subsidization — is the leading agency throwing people out of their homes.
A case in point is that of Jennifer Britt, who faces imminent eviction by Fannie Mae from her home in Detroit’s Rosedale Park neighborhood on the city’s northwest side. Rosedale Park is still considered one of the more stable areas in Detroit, but that image is rapidly changing with people like Britt fighting to save their homes from the predatory actions of the banks and Fannie Mae.
Britt, a widow who inherited the mortgage serviced by Flagstar Bank when her spouse died, was not allowed to renegotiate the terms of the contract. After shelling out more than $45,000 in mortgage payments and fees to Flagstar, she was told that since her name was not on the house, the bank would not discuss the terms with her.
Britt’s home was sold at a sheriff’s sale in 2010 and Fannie Mae, under the auspices of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, assumed control of the property. Fannie Mae was bailed out and taken over by the federal government at the height of the financial crisis in 2008. Consequently, Britt is being evicted by a directly taxpayer-funded entity.
A press conference outside Britt’s home on July 23 coincided with an ongoing vigil that began July 19 when more than 100 people set up a “human shield” to prevent the court-ordered dumpster and eviction crews from invading her home, trashing it and throwing her, her family, pets and belongings out into the streets.
U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke, who authored and introduced a comprehensive bill for a three-year moratorium on foreclosures in the U.S. Congress, spoke at the gathering. He demanded that Fannie Mae reach an acceptable agreement with Britt and immediately impose a 90-day moratorium on evictions.
Struggle grows to save Britt’s home
Many other efforts have been made by Britt to stay in the home, but to no avail. In 2009, she refused to continue to pay Flagstar since it was not going toward saving the property. An eviction order was signed on July 18 by Judge Nancy Blount of the 36th District Court.
Britt has received significant community support from the Occupy Detroit Eviction Defense Committee, United Auto Workers Local 600, the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, By Any Means Necessary and others. These groups, working as a coalition, have issued thousands of leaflets, held demonstrations against Flagstar and are now maintaining a robust home defense of the Britt property.
Because of the pressure, U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan have intervened in the effort and have demanded Fannie Mae find a resolution. A local agency, Southwest Housing Solutions, agreed to purchase the home from Fannie Mae for a reasonable, market-value price.
However, Fannie Mae is demanding no less than $121,000 — way above the actual market value of Britt’s home. Housing values in Detroit and around the country have dropped precipitously over the last few years due to the foreclosure epidemic and the collapse of the mortgage industry.
At the press conference, several people spoke in defense of Britt, calling for Fannie Mae to relinquish control of the home to her. The Rev. Ed Rowe of Central United Methodist Church said, “The federal government through Fannie Mae should not be evicting us from our homes.”
Jerome Jackson, a disabled man living with a wheelchair since he was 14, spoke out in defense of Britt. Jackson, from the Detroit suburb of Inkster, is also facing foreclosure after Wayne County Community Living Services reneged on a subsidized mortgage deal. Jackson was given a 60-day eviction adjournment by a district court, but no long-term solution to his situation has been found.
Joe McGuire of Occupy Detroit Eviction Defense stressed the need for people to be at Britt’s home on July 24, a date that may signify a push by Fannie Mae to carry out the eviction. People at the home were maintaining their vigilance through community outreach and keeping the press and people throughout the city informed of developments.
The Moratorium NOW! Coalition is demanding that President Barack Obama issue an executive order to impose a halt on foreclosures in the U.S. With the ongoing economic crisis and no improvement in job growth or household income and the increasing rate of poverty, a moratorium on foreclosures through executive order would provide relief to people throughout the country facing imminent eviction.
The struggle against foreclosures and for a moratorium is growing throughout the country. Demonstrations and home defenses are being held on a regular basis in various states and cities from Michigan to California to Rhode Island and other areas of the U.S.