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Fighting foreclosure in Claremont

As the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs met Thursday on Capitol Hill to discuss the fate of homeowners, locals gathered in the Claremont Village, and across the nation, to add their own voices to the fight against foreclosure.

About 40 people congregated at the Wells Fargo on Yale Avenue and Second Street late Thursday afternoon, signs in hand, to demand action against government controlled mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The 2 mortgage companies control or guarantee more than 60 percent of home loans, according to reports.

Claremont joined with 200 groups across the country in a “Save Our Homes” national day of action led by MoveOn, a progressive political-action group dedicated to education and advocacy.

Ralliers, comprised of MoveOn members, Claremont Occupiers and supporters, joined together in hopes the government takes action to make Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac adjust mortgages to reflect the true value of their homes for millions of underwater homeowners.

“This is an issue that is affecting us all: our house values, the economy of Claremont,” said Don Overlin, a MoveOn member who helped organize the rally. “We don’t have to stand and let it all go down like a foregone conclusion. We can change this.”

Of the 500,000 homes in California that are currently in or are at risk of foreclosure, more than half are owned or controlled by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to recent reports.

“People all around me are losing their homes because of bad bank deals. Why should they have to pay the penalty?” Mr. Overlin questioned. “We gave our tax dollars to the banks and now we are losing our homes. The banks got bailed out and we got sold out.”

Participants took to action not only by physical presence, but by passing out flyers with regional resources for struggling homeowners.

“This is not just a national problem,” said local Terry Donnelly. “Everyone knows someone who is dealing with foreclosure. We are all affected. Our goal is to help educate those struggling with foreclosure and to let them know that they are not alone.”

In addition to calling for action to aid homeowners, rally participants across the nation gathered more than 60,000 signatures calling for President Barack Obama to replace Ed DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency who oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Mr. DeMarco has come under fire in recent months for refusing to allow principal reductions on the home loans owned by Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“This guy has got to go,” said Roberta Cendejas who joined with many others bearing signs painted with slogans like “dump DeMarco” and “fight foreclosure, fire DeMarco.”

"Americans are sinking in underwater mortgages. It’s far past time that government-controlled mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provide some needed relief," said Meg Mathies, a Claremont MoveOn member. "Clearly, Ed DeMarco doesn’t care about homeowners; if he did he would allow them to adjust their mortgages to reflect the true value of their homes.”

Rallies targeting banks and lenders are not new to the Claremont neighborhood. MoveOn and Occupy Claremont have held a number of public actions against big banks in the past several months as Americans struggle to find relief with their loans despite bank bailouts.

“This is not a bank. This is a crime scene,” said the Reverend John Forney. “If you don’t believe in hell, try refinancing your home.”

Despite the turmoil, Mr. Overlin and others present at the rally believe keeping a constant physical presence in the community will hopefully help bring about the change homeowners need.

“We constantly see change coming from the ground up. We have seen people, through social networks and rallies, change legislation. We need to continue to stand up and share the knowledge,” Mr. Overlin said. “It’s time to wake up and grab the reins.” 

—Beth Hartnett

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