«The foreclosure crisis is getting worse,» stated Soledad Lawrence, an organizer with City Life/Vida Urbana. «The Deutsche Bank was the biggest foreclosing company in Mass. in 2007. That’s why we’re having a protest and vigil at their golf tournament. We aren’t against golf! We do want Deutsche Bank to do more.»
Activists from 6 grass roots community groups, along with 3 coalitions in 2 states, are planning the golf tournament protest on Saturday, Aug. 30, from 11 am to 1:30 pm. There will be a program of speakers at 12 noon. The protest/vigil will take place on Rt. 140 in Norton, at the entrance to the AutoPart International Building. Golf fans will be transported by bus from the Comcast Center to the AutoPart building.
The coalition sent a letter to Deutsche Bank in New York requesting that the Bank do two things:
1. Publicly support Massachusetts just cause eviction legislation to stop no-fault evictions after foreclosures.
2. Organize a meeting of their 10 largest servicing companies in eastern Mass. and Rhode Island with coalition members and urge those servicers to stop post foreclosure evictions and sell to non-profits or occupants at appraised value. That would prevent the rapid increase in bank-owned vacant buildings plaguing working class neighborhoods.
«We have hundreds of vacant properties in Lawrence,» stated Nelson Butten, an organizer with Lawrence Community Works. «These buildings are a terrible blight. Deutsche Bank owns more of them than anyone else. After a long process, we did negotiate a sale recently, but we have to move much faster. A Deutsche Bank meeting with their large servicers could really help.»
The legislation the coalition wants Deutsche Bank to publicly support is now before the Statehouse. It would prevent mortgage companies from engaging in mass, no-fault evictions after foreclosure. Activists estimate that 30,000 households, including former owners and tenants, could face eviction in Mass. after foreclosure in the next 12 months. «The bills had a lot of support at the Statehouse,» commented Grace Ross, a leader of the Mass. Alliance Against Predatory Lending, the sponsor of the bill. «The Governor and half the legislature were on record in support, but we just ran out of time in the formal session. Deutsche Bank backing would help a lot for next phase.»
Last year, in response to a planned protest at the golf tournament, Deutsche Bank issued a letter to all their servicing companies. The letter urged the servicers (a) to reconsider the policy of mass eviction after foreclosure and (b) to consider selling properties to non-profits rather than leaving them vacant.
«The letter had the right thoughts,» continued Ms. Lawrence, «so we didn’t protest last year. But the letter was completely ineffective. Servicers in Deutsche Bank foreclosed properties have continued mass evictions. What we’re asking Deutsche to do this year simply puts into practice last year’s letter. Our just cause eviction legislation, for instance, gives teeth to that letter.»
The coalition sponsoring the golf tournament vigil remarkably includes organizations from two states, Mass. and Rhode Island. «We have the same problems here,» stated Tom Judd from the R.I. Housing Justice Coalition. «It is