Chicago's Albany Park Autonomous Center says PNC Bank has acknowledged that they initiated foreclosure against a Minneapolis family in error, but the move is continuing despite pleas from the family and supporters. After months of waiting and multiple eviction attempts, the Cruz family is traveling to the bank's headquarters in Pittsburgh, along with a caravan of supporters.
Alejandra and David Cruz, two Minneapolis college students and Dream Act activists, along with their Mexican immigrant parents, stopped Wednesday in Chicago to visit the regional headquarters of secondary market lender Freddie Mac, which currently holds the title to their home.
"My parents had to work so hard for this house," Alejandra Cruz told an Occupy Homes rally in May, according to the Uptake. "It’s unjust for the banks to take away our dream. My parents brought us here really young, and we’ve learned how to fight against injustice ever since we came to this country. It’s been a struggle for us every single day since we got here."
After a series of protests organized by Occupy Homes Minnesota, some of which included occupations, Freddie Mac boarded up the home's doors and windows and stationed guards outside to keep the family out.
"Freddie Mac has been a tremendous roadblock for homeowners hoping for a good faith negotiation during the foreclosure process," Anthony Newby of Occupy Homes Minnesota and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change said in a statement. "Under the helm of Edward Demarco, they have refused to allow principal reductions for 15 million underwater homeowners while simultaneously using taxpayer funds to carry out costly evictions. The Cruz family is living proof that Freddie Mac is failing the American people."
Starting at noon on Wednesday, Chicago-based Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction and their allies, the Albany Park Autonomous Center, Occupy Homes Chicago, and the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, rallied at the mortgage corporation's Chicago headquarters.
"This is important because there's a foreclosure crisis that has been ongoing across the country for years now, and despite government bailout money to the banks and a lot of legislation, there hasn't been a lot of will from the banks to do something about it, so there are brave families like the Cruz family who are stepping up in order to get their attention and try to save their homes," Stuart Schussler, an organizer with the Albany Park Autonomous Center, told HuffPost Chicago.
A spokesman for Freddie Mac told HuffPost Chicago that their records show PNC Bank reached out to the Cruz family multiple times to discuss loan modification options, and Freddie Mac offered relocation assistance after the foreclosure was finalized, but neither agency ever received a response. He said Freddie Mac plans to sell the home as close to market value as possible to recoup their losses.
"People have a right to demonstrate on any issue they want to demonstrate on," the spokesman said. "We have obligations to try to minimize our losses on loans that go into foreclosure, and where the foreclosure proces was lawfully undertaken and concluded."
In July 2011, a California-based company that tracks housing sales found that the Chicago area had the most foreclosed homes in the nation. Last August, the city launched the Micro-Market Recovery Program to create a loan pool of $15 to $20 million for community groups to purchase, rehab and sell vacant properties that many said welcomed crime.
But for the Cruz family and many others like them dependent on lenders' actions to reverse their foreclosures, the biggest problem is getting the banks and mortgage corporations to keep their promises.
"We feel like PNC and Freddie Mac have forgotten us," David Cruz said in a statement. "So we’re going to remind them."
Correction: The original version of this story did not distinguish between PNC Bank and Freddie Mac's efforts to contact the Cruz family. According to a spokesperson from Freddie Mac, both agencies reached out to the family and did not receive any responses.