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Monday, February 23, 2009

Breaking News: Rotten ACORN's Next Act of Civil Disobedience in Tuscon, Arizona

EyesandEars: Home Owner Protests Foreclosure in Tuscon, AZ

This story was reported and written by Robert Temple. He is one of the HuffPost citizen journalists helping cover the on the ground effects of the foreclosure crisis.

As you drive south along South Park Avenue in southern Tucson, you pass streets named for U.S. states: Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Oklahoma. A symbolic reminder of the national scope of the housing crisis.

Ana Castro lives on Kentucky Street, filled with modest homes and lined with Palm and Palo Verde trees. Located just six miles from the Davis Mountain Air Force Base, the peaceful setting is often temporarily interrupted as pairs of A-10 Thunderbolt (a.k.a. 'Warthog') fighter jets streak by on training missions.

Ana's house isn't filled with expensive frills. A modest, well kept one story, two bedroom house of about 1000 square feet, there is no cable or high speed Internet connection. Ana doesn't own a computer, and the television brings in only local channels using a rabbit ear antenna.

She has lived in this house for fifteen years, easily affording the $430 mortgage payment while making small home improvements like planting a lemon tree and installing landscaping bricks with the help of friends and neighbors.

That began to change three years ago when she refinanced with Wells Fargo. What started out as an affordable $650 per month payment for the first two years started to increase. Her monthly payment is now $1450 at an interest rate of 17.5%. With Ana's job as a Prep cook at the Universal Medical Center bringing in $10.50 per hour, she is unable to keep up with her steadily increasing house payment.

How did Ana find herself in this situation? Ana says that the bank lied to her about the terms of her loan. Before she signed the finance agreement she was insistent about the monthly payments. She wanted to make sure she could afford them. The bank assured her she qualified.

Two years later when Ana noticed her payments rising, she called Wells Fargo asking for an explanation. Each time she called she talked with someone different than the last time. What didn't change was their answer: she agreed to the terms of the loan at the time she signed the papers, and she had no choice but to make the payments.

Soon Ana was unable to afford the monthly payments on her home of 15 years and the bank started foreclosure proceedings. Now when she calls them they tell her she has to make a payment of $4000 before they can even begin to do anything to help her.

In addition, the foreclosure has damaged Ana's credit rating, making it impossible for her to obtain other financing options.

With no where left to turn, Ana called the Tucson ACORN office. They have been a great source of support for Ana, providing financial advice and advocating in her behalf. ACORN also has a support system of volunteers called "Home Defenders", which are a group of volunteers foreclosed families can call at any time for support.

Through it all, Ana is hopeful and determined. Although feeling the stress of her uncertain future, she gives thanks to ACORN, as well as friends and neighbors and for their support and "Prays to God every single day" to let her keep her house.

Today, ACORN is hosting a protest and press conference at Ana's house. Jorge Garza is organizing the event, and is joined by others whose homes are being foreclosed. Madeleine Troyon, Dolores Fair and Maria Jimenes are all members of, and being supported by, ACORN. They each have a unique story to tell.

Madeleine was upbeat about the future, saying "I am so happy we have a president that is helping us."

Dolores is hoping for broader support, telling the people gathered there "We need our community to stand with us."

Jorge Garza, who works with victims of predatory lenders every day, sums it up this way: "Banks do not deserve 20 years of someone's life just because [the banks] were greedy."

As for Ana, she expects to keep her home, and says "We will fight to the last" to do so.


My Thoughts

Looks like the ACORN thugs' next act of "civil disobedience" will be in Tuscon, Arizona. I'll keep you posted.

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