Pushing back - Page 2

Reoccupied foreclosed Bayview house becomes a home base for the 'foreclosure fighters'

Dexter Cato (left), with ILWU brothers, reoccupying his home March 16

While President Bush signed on to Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in 2008, and bailouts to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac continued to roll out well into the Obama presidency, foreclosures were steadily clearing San Francisco of longtime residents, not to mention property tax and home values on foreclosure-stricken blocks.

There were advocates working on the behalf of those getting evicted. The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment looked into cases and worked to discern the complex chain of entitlement, talk to the right people, and try to get loans modified. HUD-certified organizations like the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) and the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation (SFHDC) counseled homeowners and waded through paperwork.

"The modification process takes an average of 12 months to complete," said Jose Luis Rodriguez, a foreclosure counselor with MEDA, in an email. The loan modification process can make or break a homeowners chances of keeping their home, leaving them in what he called "purgatory."

Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting later concluded that in 84 percent of foreclosure cases, there was some kind of faulty paperwork.

"We'd fax documents to banks and they would habitually lose documents. We'd have to fax them sometimes up to 10 times," said Jonathan Segarra, director of communications for MEDA.

Alberto Del Rio had the same issue. During his loan modification struggle, "we kept having to sign up for a new case," Del Rio told me. "About every three months. Generally because they lost paperwork, or paperwork wasn't properly transmitted."

"There was no callback on their part," he said. "We would have to call to get updates and they would say: oh, it's closed, you have to start over with the paperwork now."

But this lost paperwork epidemic, an emblem of the carelessness that ran rampant through the mad expansion of the subprime mortgage industry, has more than one face. It is likely due to lost paperwork, for example, that Cato has been living in the home that is, technically, no longer his.

No one seems to have the title.

At the time of sale, it was owned by Wells Fargo. According to transaction records, the foreclosure is being serviced by American Home Mortgage Servicers; they get a portion of the money, but do not own it. According to Wells Fargo representatives, that bank is now the trustee of the mortgage, also known as the beneficiary.

ACCE has claimed that Wells Fargo "sold the house back to itself," and that American Home Mortgage Services, the company currently servicing the loan, is a subsidiary of Wells Fargo. Ruben Pulido, a Wells Fargo spokesperson, denies this.

"That's incorrect. American Home mortgage services is completely different and separate from Wells Fargo," Pulido told us.

But Martinez believes that "they're different entities in that they work separately, but they're the main servicer for Wells Fargo, they only service for Wells Fargo."

Calls and emails to American Home Mortgage Services went unanswered.

Last fall, as an angry mass suddenly emerged from the American public, cries of "banks got bailed out, we got sold out" rang through the streets. Occupy Bernal and ACCE have had success in the city government, gaining support from Sups David Campos and John Avalos, who represent some of the hardest hit districts, helping facilitate meetings between Wells Fargo representatives and homeowners with foreclosure horror stories, with some success.

Activists also went for more civil disobedience-style tactics. These were on display Feb. 22, when dozens of supporters showed up at Monica Kenney's Excelsior home. Kenney was in the midst of dealing with a foreclosure that didn't seem right. She had received a forbearance agreement and made the first payment on it June 27, then was surprised to learn that, June 28, her house had been sold at auction.

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