An offshoot of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) aimed at saving homes from foreclosure is getting results through a nationwide initiative called Occupy Our Homes (OOH). Last week, protestors across the country “reoccupied” vacant properties, moved homeless families into abandoned properties and, in some instances, negotiated with lenders, bidders and auctioneers to prevent the sale of foreclosed homes. In one instance in Atlanta, GA, a man successfully removed his house from the auction block with help from a lawyer. In other instances, lenders agreed to revisit loan modification applications before selling homes at auction. OOH protestors are different from OWS protestors in that they have clear complaints, plans of action and goals. They believe that lenders encouraged risky loans, allowed “highly speculative investing,” took taxpayer money for bailouts without passing that leniency on to the taxpayers themselves, and carried out illegal evictions. In response to these problems, OOH protestors believe that they are in the right when they “occupy” properties to prevent foreclosure sales or protest denied loan modification applications. This process is known as “liberating” a home.
While at first, this new manifestation of the OWS movement seems to be mostly positive, critics argue that the movement could be slowing the housing recovery. In many cases, OOH is occupying homes that have been sold and that are moving through the housing recovery process. In effect, they are stalling the recovery by occupying properties under contract. And the owners of the properties are not going to take the occupation lying down, either. As Fannie Mae spokeswoman Keosha Burns reminds California occupiers, “Any action or event that attempts to delay the sale of a foreclosed property destabilizes the neighborhood and hinders marketing recovery. We will work with local officials to remove anyone who is inside our properties illegally.” Occupiers have argued in at least one case with Fannie Mae that they are actually doing would-be buyers a favor because “the federal government needs to find them another house that’s suitable for a family to actually live in instead of giving them a house at the bottom of the barrel.” The buyers of that house purchased it at a discount as a fixer-upper in order to save money for their daughter’s college fund. It was not gifted to them by the government.
Do you think OOH will have a lasting impact on the housing market? On lending practices? Are they better, worse or the same as the OWS movement?
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