Friday, June 20, 2008

Michigan Moratorium Coalition Calls for March on Lansing, Sept. 17

Michigan moratorium coalition calls for march on Lansing

By Kris Hamel
Published Jun 19, 2008 11:26 PM

The UAW Local 7 hall, across the street from a Chrysler assembly plant, was the place to organize and speak out here June 14 for a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions in Michigan. An organizing session, town hall meeting and free legal clinic anchored the day’s activities.

First, at a statewide organizing meeting, the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions voted unanimously for a mass action Sept. 17 in Lansing, Mich. It will focus on demanding the Michigan Legislature pass a bill for a two-year moratorium introduced recently by state Sen. Hansen Clarke of Detroit.

SB 1306 would allow a homeowner facing foreclosure to go to court for an automatic stay that would delay a sheriff’s sale for two years or extend the repayment redemption period from six months to two years. The court would set a reasonable repayment plan based in part on the borrower’s income and ability to pay. The law would be in effect for three years; anyone in foreclosure during that period could utilize the moratorium.

SB 1306 was modeled on a five-year moratorium law in effect in Michigan during the Great Depression. Over half the states had moratoriums in place at that time.

Representatives of organizations throughout metro Detroit and beyond strategized on building public support for the moratorium and the Sept. 17 march on Lansing. Coalition members and supporters plan to mobilize statewide by fanning out to county fairs, festivals and other summer events.

They will be leafleting, speaking and doing media work to build the Lansing action and put the heat on politicians to support the moratorium. Organizers reiterated that only by building a strong grassroots movement will enough pressure be generated to force the state Legislature to act on behalf of the people.

Many tactics were discussed, including demonstrations outside bankers’ homes and targeting the law firm of Trott & Trott, whose lawyers represent the mortgage companies and banks throwing people out of their homes.

The moratorium coalition office at Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit has been buzzing with activity. People stop by to get leaflets and information, then spread the word in their communities and organizations such as unions, churches and student groups. Coalition members leafleted the crowds at Barack Obama rallies in Detroit and Flint.

After the organizing meeting, 150 people attended a town hall speak-out organized by the Coalition and hosted by Sen. Clarke. Testimony from victims of foreclosures and evictions showed the crisis situation caused by the foreclosure epidemic.

Coalition leader Abayomi Azikiwe of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice set the tone by explaining why SB 1306 is so sorely needed and how a mass march on Lansing when the state Legislature reconvenes is the next step in this crucial struggle. Legislative aide Bruce Sullivan Feaster chaired the open-mike meeting.

Sen. Clarke, sponsor of SB 1306, told the crowd: “I’m here today to listen to you. Foreclosures don’t just evict people from their homes—they hurt everyone in Michigan. As our property values go down, people owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. I again declare today that we are in a state of emergency here in Michigan.”

Next came the people’s testimony. One after another, those victimized by predatory lending and in various stages of foreclosure stepped up to tell their horror stories.

Yvette Charles of Southfield owned her home for 30 years on a veteran’s loan and is now in foreclosure. “We’re made to feel shame and pain, that somehow we caused this, when it’s not true,” she stated. “Trott & Trott made illegal maneuvers and worked with the VA to steal my home at a sheriff’s sale.”

Sandra Hines of Detroit told how, just before Christmas last year, “I was evicted from my home of 38 years. I was also evicted from my community and disconnected from my history.”

Wayne County Commissioner Phil Cavanagh told the audience that he fully supports the moratorium. He said one out of five mortgages in the county is delinquent or in foreclosure.

Kendra Washington told how she moved into an abandoned home, spent her money to fix it up utilizing a nuisance abatement program, and then HUD forced her to leave.

State Rep. Bettie Cook Scott spoke out for the moratorium and for a bill she introduced that would stop late water and utility bills from being tacked onto property taxes—a practice that has increased the rate of tax foreclosures.

Jean Irwin, who went bankrupt after a bout with cancer and being unable to find steady work, used her tax refund to stop foreclosure on her home after being laid off last August. She said she’s in an uphill battle against homelessness.

Richard Clay, vice president of Concerned Black Men, said that while it was “too late” for him, SB 1306 is important to help “the dozens of people I know in foreclosure now.”

Carol Summers has one month left before her home is gone. “Countrywide told me my payments were too low and that I don’t make enough money. They said I should cut my monthly grocery bill down from $100 to $50.”

Larry Thomas testified that “Communities are being destroyed, families ripped apart.” He said that two years after being in bankruptcy, he was finally able to afford a house, but, “Now I’m two months away from losing my home.”

Kimberly Canty, who has been unable to find a job for five years despite holding an MBA degree, said, “I owe $10,000 and now my water bill has been added to my taxes. I will be homeless by the end of the year.”

“This is a social crisis that requires a broad political response,” stated a Coalition organizer. “Only a mass outpouring of the people will force the Legislature to act and pass the moratorium now!”

A free legal clinic held during the town meeting assisted dozens of people facing foreclosure and predatory lending situations. Paralegal Shelia Tyson did intake as attorneys from Michigan Legal Services; Legal Aid and Defender Office; Neighborhood Legal Services; Vanessa G. Fluker, Esq., PLLC; Jerome D. Goldberg, PLLC; and housing counselors assisted people with their many questions and problems.

Much-needed donations can be sent to the Moratorium NOW! Coalition at 23 E. Adams, 4th Floor, Detroit, MI 48226. Phone 313-319-0870 or e-mail moratorium at to get involved. Visit the Coalition’s Web site for PDF leaflets, videos and other resources at

Bryan G. Pfeifer contributed to this article.

No comments: