Fed up with foreclosures and evictions, the Occupy SF Housing coalition fights back
While the Obama administration has tried to ease the foreclosure crisis through the federally subsidized Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), only a small percentage of people who apply through their mortgage holder for relief under the program receive a loan adjustment. At Wells Fargo, only one in five borrowers applying for HAMP relief have received a loan modification.
Protesters sitting in the streets in front of Wells Fargo demanded that the company establish a moratorium on all foreclosures until it reforms its loan modification practices, halts the eviction of homeowners who have faced foreclosure, and instead offers them a rental option to keep them in their homes — a solution they say will ease the suffering of those caught in the middle of the banking crisis.
The banking and real estate driven economic crash has lead to the largest drop in home ownership nationally since the Great Depression. At the same time that home ownership has become increasingly out of reach for many San Franciscans, increases in rental rates and high competition for rental units are driving out many blue collar San Franciscans from the transit-friendly Mission District, in favor of a generally younger, wealthier, more educated, tech-savvy population.
As rallies took place across the city Saturday in the lead up to the afternoon's Wells Fargo protest, a group of concerned residents and community groups gathered at 24th and Mission to highlight San Francisco's other housing crisis — the rental market. The other marches started in the Castro, the Bayview, and the Tenderloin.
Much of the turnover of long-occupied rent controlled housing units in San Francisco comes as a result of the Ellis Act, a state law that allows evictions when an owner's family wants to move in or when the unit is taken off the rental market. Brenda Nedina's family is facing an Ellis Act eviction at 874 Shotwell Street.
"I've lived in that unit my whole life. My family has lived in the unit for 28 years," said the tearful, 25-year-old San Franciscan native. "We would love to stay here, but with rents so high, it is not likely that we would find a place in San Francisco."
Nedina, who works a service industry job at Pier 39, says the economic crisis has made it more difficult for her survive in San Francisco. She has had to cut down her college course load to get by in the tough economy. The troubles will get more complicated if her family is priced out of the city, as critical health services that they rely on are available through their San Francisco residency.
"A lot of people suffer through this as a private problem, but we are making it a public problem, and if the problem belongs to all of us then so does the solution," said Maria Poblet of Just Cause, hugging a tearful Nedina as she addressed a crowd gathered at 24th and Mission streets.
Latino families like Brenda's continue to be forced out of the Mission District by rising rent, and less economic opportunity for them in the recession. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the past decade has seen a 22 percent decrease in the Mission's Latino population.
"Landlords often abuse the Ellis Act as a way to remove tenants from rent controlled units," Just Cause organizer Maria Zamudio told the Guardian. "I'm occupying Kaleidoscope free speech zone art space on 24th and Folsom. My slumlord landlord is not down with that mission," said artist and gallery proprietor Sara Powell, also facing a Ellis Act eviction after pressuring her landlord to address substandard building maintenance issues. Powell's landlord withdrew a standard eviction process that housing advocates said was unlikely to succeed before launching the Ellis Act eviction.