Activists complain foreclosed South LA homes promote blight

By Esperanza Arrizon
Good Jobs LA

Activists rode this bus on the foreclosed home blight tour.

On Thursday May 17th, activists from Good Jobs LA joined community members organized by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) for a South LA blight tour.

The tour showed three bank-owned foreclosed homes in serious disrepair to demonstrate how big banks are hurting local communities by failing to maintain their foreclosed properties.

Garbage fills one of the foreclosed homes on the blight tour.

There are approximately 19,000 LA families in some stage of foreclosure right now. As a result, abandoned bank-owned and foreclosed homes litter LA neighborhoods.

These homes – often left unsafe and in disrepair – attract crime, drive down local property values and are a blight on LA’s communities.

“I’ve been living here for 20 years. That house over there is the worst in this neighborhood,” said Carlos, a neighbor of one of the homes on the blight tour who asked that his last name not be revealed.

Another foreclosed home on the blight tour.

“There is a lot of trash there and it makes our block look very bad. What’s worse is that drugs are being sold out of the house, even to little children.”

Wall Street banks crashed our economy and drove millions to foreclosure and now they’re leaving LA’s communities to clean up the mess.

Activists called on city leaders to enforce LA’s blight ordinance that allows the city to collect $1,000 a day from banks that do not maintain their foreclosed homes.

But LA is failing to enforce the law – a lost opportunity to hold irresponsible banks accountable and collect money to rebuild our neighborhoods.

Julian Corea and his son live next to one of the blighted homes on the tour.

“It’s time for banks to pay what they owe and take responsibility for the activity that goes on in their foreclosed homes,” said Julian Corea, another neighbor of one of the blighted homes on the tour.

“Banks haven’t paid their fair share. They need to pay so we can use the money for public services. Abandoned, foreclosed homes are bringing our property values down. The city needs to collect the money that these banks owe.”

Protesters demand Wells Fargo do more to stop foreclosures

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News:


A crowd of about two dozen protesters squished their way into the bank, paying no heed to disgruntled staff and security guards. Their leaders held a letter demanding Wells Fargo participate in a state-wide program called “Keep Your Home California.” The “Keep Your Home” program is federally funded. If the bank reduces the homeowner’s principle, the program will match the difference dollar for dollar. But the protesters want Wells Fargo to participate.

Xaime Casillas was like many protesters holding their ground in the bank—he was getting closer to losing his home. Casillas welcomed his first baby last year, but when his newborn son suffered two heart attacks, he had to leave his job. He’s been in the loan modification process ever since and it hasn’t been going well. He’s angry with the banks.

“It’s like the banks have a shredding machine that you’re using to fax in all your documents to get a loan modification. And it seems like it just goes right into the shredder.”

Casillas’ lender is Chase Bank. He was so close to getting a modification, but then they claimed to not have a crucial page of the agreement and closed his case. Casillas isn”t buying it. He believes the prolonged modification process allows the bank to tack on fees and to keep the homeowner paying, rather than abandoning ship.

“Call them up. They lost this, they lost that. They don’t really care about you.”

The TARP bailout still stings for these homeowners. To them, it doesn’t seem right that taxpayers bailed out the same banks that are now denying them help.

Peggy Mears’ home is also in trouble. But she wasn’t about to give up.

“We will take it to the streets, you will see Egypt in California.”

The Los Angeles Police Department arrived later and said that a lot of police officers are also facing foreclosure. The protesters crossed the street to the Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office. They delivered 10,000 signatures demanding action against the biggest banks.

Wells Fargo released a statement that have agreed to participate in the “Keep Your Home California” program and that they will continue to work with homeowners, non-profits and elected officials to stop foreclosures.

Hai-me Caseehas was resigned but determined.

“I might lose my home, but I’m still gonna help other people keep theirs.”

Homeowners protest at the Los Angeles County Courthouse

By: Laurel Galanter and Benjamin Kapinos

Listen to the audio story here:

Read the audio script here:

About a dozen homeowners facing foreclosure protested Thursday at the Los Angeles County Courthouse. The demonstration was organized by the Home Defenders League, which is calling for a moratorium on foreclosure across California. Twenty-three states have already made this commitment.

The movement has been fueled by homeowners angry at the banks for seizing homes. Across the country, millions of poeple have lost their homes. Peggy is one of them.

“These are the banks who are once again making a profit and on whose back,” Peggy said. “We the people. We’re fighting back. The phoenix has arisen. We’re fighting back.”

They are losing their homes for a lot of reasons. Some lost their jobs, had health problems or could not handle escalating interest rates. Peggy is angry because she thought that after she lost her job, she was negotiating with the bank in good faith.

“It’s terrible, it’s terrible,” Peggy said. “They take your money, and you still lose your home.”

Then, she received a notice of foreclosure without warning. The league is demanding that banks first negotiate with homeowners before putting their houses up on the auction block.

Protestors encourage national boycott of Wells Fargo

Listen to the audio story here:

Outside of the Sentinel newspaper building, a small group gathered to protest Wells Fargo and its management of home loans and mortgages. The group said Wells Fargo preyed on the disadvantaged, citing the elderly and minority groups as two common victims.

“Well, they’re basically using scare tactics and, unfortunately, with the elderly, the elderly just don’t have I guess the ability to be able to comprehend what is going on, so they are basically victims,” said Pedro Baez, a South Los Angeles community leader.

Specific allegations against Wells Fargo include the bank’s falsifying of documents, lying about interactions with customers and claiming to have lost key documents in customer’s loan processes. Ophelia Harrison brought her friend’s bank paperwork to the event to share with other protesters.

“I’m here because I’m concerned, not just for myself, but for other people across the nation,” Harrison said.

Jennifer Langan, a Wells Fargo representative, described these accusations as “outlandish.” Langan also said since the beginning of 2009, Wells Fargo has helped more than half a million customers keep their homes from foreclosure.

“Foreclosure is a difficult and damaging process for our customers and our communities, and it is a last resort after all available options for keeping the customer in the home have been exhausted,” Langan said.

Carrying signs and a blowhorn, the protesters’ next stop was a nearby Wells Fargo bank.