Protesters want President Obama to fire Ed DeMarco and help homeowners with Freddie and Fannie loans

03/16/12 Liz McKibbon
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Florida has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the United States. Yesterday, members and others rallied at Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters in Ybor City. The group hopes to sway President Obama to make changes to current foreclosure system.

About fifteen protesters gathered as part of a larger national day of action called Save Our Homes. They held signs with the messages “Dump DeMarco” and “Throw homeowners a lifeline.” Chris Radulich is council organizer for MoveOn’s Tampa branch.

”We’re here today to try and get homeowners relief. 63% of the mortgages are owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and they are not included in this last deal to write down mortgages and all? And the acting head, who is left over from the Bush administration, Edward DeMarco, is against giving them a break and writing them down like other people. And we’re here to try to move the president to change the policies of his administration at this time.”

As part of the recent settlement with state and federal investigators, banks will have to pay $26 billion to reduce the principal for more than 1 million borrowers. None of the eligible loans are from Freddie and Fannie. Reducing principal for these mortgages would likely increase the burden on taxpayers because they are supported by the federal government. Radulich says up-front investments in homeowners will pay off in the long run.

”The next step would be to actually allocate money to help people write down their mortgages so they can afford to stay in them. It’s probably cheaper to do that in the first place, than to put them out in the streets and have them go on food stamps and welfare.”

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are under the direction of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and DeMarco is the acting head. To put it plainly, the protesters want him fired. The group says he is standing in the way of making progress. Walt Seely is a member of the MoveOn Tampa council and says the federal government hasn’t done enough to help those underwater on their mortgages.

”The banks have been bailed out to the tune of billions of dollars. And yet nothing has been done for the people. Other than to say well we can give you a lower mortgage rate, which does nothing for people whos homes are not worth what they paid for.”

A few members of the community shared their personal stories on dealing with foreclosure. A common theme was the lack of transparency between home owners and lenders, and the unwillingness of banks to budge on loan terms. Long time Tampa resident, Nick Strippoli, is currently dealing with foreclosure.

”Now mediation in my definition, is the two parties come together. They meet and try to work out a settlement. It was nothing like that. Mediation was scheduled for October, we went to the mediation meeting, and it wasn’t mediation, it was an ultimatum. Pay us everything you owe us, plus all the fees, or nothing. We’re going to foreclose on you. And that’s when we learned at that point, that our mortgage was actually owned at this point by Freddie Mac.”

Strippoli said even though his mortgage is now owned by Freddie Mac, it’s still managed by the original lender, Chase bank. Chase collects any fees and penalties for late payments that accrue. He said this gave Chase a financial incentive not to make a deal. Another Tampa resident and MoveOn member, Sylvia Landis, concedes that even homeowners making diligent mortgage payments end up footing the bill for Fannie and Freddie mortgages.

”And we have a very high rate of foreclosures in this community. And then basically the banks are taking these assets illegally from homeowners and then they’re being transferred to Fannie and Freddy, where they’re being put on the books as assets, and we’re paying the bill. Not once, by loosing our homes, but twice by putting Fannie and Freddy on life support.”

Two hundred separate gatherings were planned across the United States as part of the Save Our Homes day of action. The Ybor group also delivered a petition, with 60,000 signatures from Florida residents, encouraging President Obama to replace DeMarco. Chris Radulich delivered the stack of pages, wrapped in a red white and blue ribbon, to the local Obama Campaign headquarters.

”And this petition is actually if you looked at it, more than just a list of names. It’s also they’re stories, what they’re requesting of Obama, and it’s a great deal of heartbreak, for everybody on this list and everybody who knows those people.”

Foreclosures aren’t the only housing problem facing Tampa residents, another is affordable rentals. For example, future urban development along Tampa’s riverfront may displace 1,700 residents of North Boulevard Homes, the city’s oldest public housing. Tomorrow community activists and Occupy Tampa will rally with these residents to encourage Tampa officials to include West Tampa residents in their considerations.

Related: U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor calls Florida bill to speed up foreclosures not appropriate

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