I was thirty eight years old when I bought a house. I was very fortunate. My great aunt had left me five thousand dollars in her will. This was the first time I had savings. My husband and I found a house in a neighborhood that qualified us for a low percentage loan, and my husband’s company loaned us enough to make up the difference so that we met the minimum down payment.
I relied on the bank and mortgage broker to assure me that our monthly payments would really be within our means. I distinctly remember the leap of faith in trusting in their financial expertise. For quite a while things were tight, but the cost of living was cheaper then. I paid for gas with coins off our bedroom bureau. I juggled utility bill payments so my checking account would not bounce. I shopped very cheaply for our food. We ate a lot of pasta and waffles. I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day at work. Our entertainment was what was free: walks, the library, bike riding in the empty DMV parking lot, picnics with the food we’d eat at home anyway, swimming at the regional park after the kiosk ranger closed at 5PM. I was focused, able, and successful in part because I believed in the reassurances I had been given that my family could live within the budget dictated by our monthly mortgage payments. Both my job and my husband’s job were secure. Our mortgage company changed hands once, but our payments stayed the same.
I think about my family’s good fortune now when so many are losing their homes because the arrangements of their mortgage payments have changed or because they were erroneously reassured by predatory lending practices, or they lost the security of their job, or their health care, or both. And they remain unemployed, or, if employed, their income has been compromised by a dramatic increase in the cost of living without accompanying income adjustments, or a decline in income due to furlough or a reduction in work time. OccupyOurHomes.org tells the stories of people fighting back to reclaim their homes.
I ride my bike down to a rally in West Oakland and hear the Ramirez family story. Margarita Ramirez says her family fell behind on their mortgage payments after her husband was laid off. B of A denied her family’s request for a loan modification under the federal Home Affordable Modification Program, then sold her home to Fannie Mae, an error B of A admits to.
They now pay rent to live in the same home they had a mortgage for. Causa Justa::Just Cause, a tenants and now foreclosure rights resource organization and Occupy the Hood demand that banks work with Oakland families to put them back in their homes. We march to a home that has been empty for two years and Causa Justa::Just Cause sets up a satellite resource and support clinic to meet neighborhood need.
On December 12 there will be a coordinated West Coast Port blockade to shut down commerce for one day. Occupy San Diego, LA, Oakland, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Anchorage and as of today, Houston will participate in solidarity with Longshoremen in Longview, Washington already on strike against grain subsidiary EGT. Landlocked Denver will occupy Goldman Sachs in support. Goldman Sachs has 51% ownership of SSA terminals on the Pacific Coast, and has impeded trucker unionizing efforts while at the same time designating truckers as independent contractors that get paid by the load and receive no benefits.
The West Coast Port Shutdown has the Port of Oakland so rattled, they have run a full page ad in the New York Times for several days. Watch http://westcoastportshutdown.org/ for updates, and check out the 29 and counting participating occupations. Listen to the voices of Causa Justa::Just Cause and Occupy the Hood at: http://redroom.com/member/jane-p-perry/media/audio/occupyourhomes-oakland-12611 .
“We can be smart enough to finance each other out of homelessness and buy every Government of the world out, cause they are not the “government” , they are only the administration of your money.” —Juan Alcala/Occupy LA