PTSD in South LA, School Board election apathy + Leimert Park on KCET

Vice News: Are some parts of South L.A. like war battlefields? Some high schools are offering PTSD counseling for students affected by gang violence in their neighborhoods.

LA School Report: Apathy wins the day in LAUSD School Board race, with 10 percent of voters going to the polls for the District 1 election.

LA Weekly: A strange twist in the Grim Sleeper murder case.

LA Times: The city’s foreclosure registry is getting an update. And LA Times Opinion: “The [foreclosed] houses themselves become focal points for a range of criminal activities. Together, they bring down the property values and damage the lifestyles of homeowners barely holding on to their own houses and dignity.”

LA Times: An expanded “neighborhood prosecutors” program from the City Attorney’s office could help South L.A. combat blight.

KCET: Mark your calendars for June 11 at 8 p.m. — KCET is taking a look at the future of Leimert Park, a neighborhood in flux with a new Metro stop planned for 2018.

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.

Mortgage help offered at Convention Center this weekend

imageHomeowners in South Los Angeles who are struggling with their mortgages or being threatened with foreclosure can seek help this weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America’s American Dream Tour will be in Los Angeles from Thursday through Monday and all services are completely free.

NACA experts are offering same-day solutions for those hoping to reduce their monthly payments by helping them negotiate with their lenders. They take into consideration budget, income and hardships as well as previous loan information to create modified mortgages.

Those looking to buy homes can sign up for the corporation’s own mortgage plan that touts no downpayment and a 30-year fixed interest rate.

Walk-ins are welcome, but NACA urges people to register online to give lenders time to prepare their file and speedup the day-of process.

You can also visit the registration page to find a list of necessary documents to bring to the workshop.

L.A. Neighborhood Housing Services hosts foreclosure workshops


OPINION: A story of foreclosure and eviction

imageBy M.A. Currie

Recently, the news has exposed the unfair, unlawful, and fraudulent business practices of large financial institutions, which are rampant in today’s economic climate.

The local television news aired a story in late December about a lady who was awakened by someone breaking into her home and discovered it was the bank.

My children and I have faced similar battles in our fight against eviction.

We filed a civil lawsuit, May 27, 2010, as In Pro Per Litigants against a bank who claimed they purchased my home at a foreclosure sale and presented a Trustee’s Deed naming them as the new owner as of July 13, 2009. They actually were not the new owner, which I didn’t discover until the following December. The previous September, a “Corrective Trustee’s Deed Upon Sale” had been recorded, naming another bank as my true landlord.

Believing I had “Tenant Rights” according to Title-VII, the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009, SEC. 702 and the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance and taking a strong position against eviction resulted in the bank retaliating and subjecting my children and I to civil harassment and an overwhelming amount of grief in an attempt to force us to move involuntarily.

The harassment went from an overwhelming amount of frivolous notices and escalated to stolen mail, unannounced home visits from strangers, a home break-in, vandalism, stalking, lawsuits against my children and I. I even called the police out to my home on an incident and received no police protection.

Through it all, I got ill with both upper body pain and diagnosed with anxiety disorder. I received medical and psychiatric attention and was prescribed medication—which I no longer need—to continue fighting for my children’s and my rights.

In our civil case, there are four other defendants who conspired with the bank and I recently added the actual new owner who is responsible.

Experienced attorneys have teamed up against my adult daughter and I. The defendants have no strong defenses, so they choose to respond with a demurer, a motion to strike, or a motion to quash.

Having no law experience, I have been very busy researching and preparing oppositions supported by the California Code of Civil Procedures and Case Law.

During my court experiences, my assigned Judge has been prejudiced in her treatment toward us, and it appears to be progressively intentional, designed to make sure we lose our physical and emotional abilities to seek justice. Immediately upon observing this injustice, I filed an “Affidavit of Prejudice Peremptory Challenge to Judicial Officer” giving the Judge the opportunity to voluntarily take herself off my civil case. She denied the request.

Also, I hand delivered a letter I wrote to the Presiding Judge of the Court. As a result, I received a letter in late December from the Assistant Presiding Judge-Elect informing me that my letter has been forwarded to the Supervising Judge of the Civil Courts and she will be contacting me directly to address my request regarding assigning a new judge to my case. On January 12, 2011, the Supervising Judge wrote me a letter stating “I will be looking into the matters raised in your letter and will be responding to you in the near future.”

I am fighting for and my children’s and my rights and equal justice for all. The fight continues.

Read more about M.A. Currie’s fight against eviction at

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Foreclosure crisis still looms large in South Los Angeles

imageWhen Operation Hope started its mortgage crisis hotline in 2008, counselors logged more than 7,000 calls within the first 24 hours.

“Last year alone we received 49,000 calls for assistance,” said Jason Yancey, Director of Hope Coalition America at Operation Hope. “Our numbers are increasing. People still need help. It’s not going anywhere any time soon.”

Listen to the interview with Jason Yancey here.

The subprime mortgage crisis affected some communities more than others, says Yancey. As a former loan officer, Yancey says he witnessed first hand that predatory lending practices were trending along racial lines.

“I would see a disproportionate amount of African Americans and Latinos being given higher interest rates and being charged higher fees for the same type of loans their Caucasian or Asian counterparts were getting,” said Yancey.

In October 2010, one in every 316 housing units in Los Angeles received a foreclosure filing, according to data from Realty Trac Inc. In South Los Angeles, the number of foreclosures was double the average for the county, with one in every 105 houses being foreclosed upon in the Florence neighborhood.

New foreclosures in Los Angeles by zip code in October 2010:

“Those communities have a history of being under-served,” said Yancey. “There isn’t the option for a lot of financial literacy. There aren’t a lot of businesses serving those areas. So, unfortunately, people living in those communities don’t have a lot of options to get a home loan or to go to a corner bank to open a checking account. It’s a lot of check cashing places instead of banks in those communities. I would like to see a lot more businesses go to offer their services within these under-served communities that have been neglected.”

The mortgage crisis hotline offers “guidance and assistance” to homeowners facing foreclosure. Counselors explain legal documents and jargon, and step in on behalf of the homeowner to negotiate loan modifications with banks.

“It helps to have an advocate in anything you do in life,” said Yancey. “But specifically for this —someone with a real estate background who does this 8 hours a day and [has] relationships directly within the lenders that they’re calling.”

Listen to Jason Yancey:

To curb predatory lending, the need for more financial literacy is imperative, according to Yancey, especially in schools.

“There isn’t a lot of financial literacy that’s taught,” said Yancey. “The banks definitely played a huge part because it was foreseeable, this crisis. But the homeowner isn’t completely free. You should educate yourself.”

Without more support and outreach for under-served communities, Yancey says the number of foreclosures in Los Angeles will continue to swell.

“I would love to see it go away as soon as possible, but I don’t think it’s going to go away any time within the next three years,” said Yancey. “And that’s optimistic.”

Photo courtesy of Flickr user respres.

Homeowners seek help avoiding foreclosures

Listen to the audio story here:

NACA, a national mortgage company, sent representatives to give homeowners advice about foreclosures. The corporation says many people spent the night waiting in line to get help. Annenberg Radio News reporter Rachael Lee asked homeowners how foreclosures have affected them.

Bill to help homeowners avoid foreclosure

California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and other assembly leaders joined Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in Los Angeles on Tuesday to push a bill that would help homeowners avoid foreclosure. The Monitored Mortgage Workout Program would force banks to meet with borrowers and a state-appointed mediator before foreclosing homes. Hear an audio report by Ariel Edwards Levy of Annenberg Radio News.

Around the Capitol Report on AB 1588