South LA Democratic Space: Esperanza Community Housing Corporation

Monic Uriarte, Community Organizer/Health Promoter for Esperanza Community Housing Corporation

Mercado la Paloma promotes a local entrepreneurial spirit while fostering creative and multi-cultural community-based activities and programming.

The conceptual idea of Mercado la Paloma grew in 1999 from local residents living in Esperanza Community Housing Corporation’s building development.

Monic, who has worked in South LA for 16 years, believes Mercado La Paloma “is so important because it gives the opportunity to local residents to dream about being their own business owners. In South Central LA it was almost impossible to get investors to invest in local residents to create local businesses, so Esperanza created Mercado La Paloma to provoke this democratic space.”

Mercado la Paloma promueve un espíritu de comercio local y facilita actividades creativas y multiculturales en la comunidad del Sur de Los Ángeles. La idea del mercado creció en 1999 entre residentes que vivían en un edificio de desarrollo patrocinado por Esperanza Community Housing.

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Fannie Mae prepares to sell foreclosed properties in South LA

imageThere’s a house on East Adams Boulevard in South Central Los Angeles where broken windows are covered by cardboard and wrapping paper. Cockroaches crawl in water glasses and a ratty extension cord connecting a generator to a bare fluorescent bulb is stapled to the ceiling.

This house is in foreclosure under Fannie Mae. It’s also home to three families – 17 people total, including 11 children.

“There’s little baby cockroaches crawling in that cupboard. You want to take a souvenir?” Haide Clemente laughed. She’s a stay-at-home mother in this house. Her husband works in a factory, making parts for cars and airplanes.

One of the families had been there for nine years when foreclosure proceedings started last spring. The family says Fannie Mae stopped telling them where to send their rent checks and the lender still hasn’t answered their calls. In September, they stopped paying rent. Their electricity was cut off.

Strategic Action for a Just Economy, or SAJE, opened the house to public visits on Thursday. Executive Director Paulina Gonzalez says there are many Fannie Mae homes like it.

“They have dozens of properties in South Los Angeles, in Southeast Los Angeles, that are in foreclosure. They’re preparing to sell their properties and become equity owners, and we’re here to ask Fannie Mae, is Fannie Mae going to be Los Angeles’s newest slumlord?”

On Monday Fannie Mae announced a plan to let one investors buy whole chunks of houses in cities hit hardest by the mortgage crisis, including about 600 properties in Los Angeles and Riverside.

In California, and maybe nationwide, the Federal Housing Finance Agency will chose one new owner after a rigorous application process.

But Nancy Ibrahim, Executive Director of Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, says tenants also need to know their rights.

“A lot of people tragically end up in a situation like this not only because of Fannie Mae but because of many, many other banks, and they disappear so quickly that we can’t even inform them of their tenant rights.”

For example, SAJE says Clemente’s family accepted two thousand dollars from a “Cash for Keys” program to help cover their moving costs. They could have gotten nine times as much help through government programs. They just didn’t know about them. And Fannie Mae isn’t responsible for that.

Fannie Mae could not be reached for comment by the time of our broadcast.