Residents fighting to keep their homes

Heavy rains Saturday did not stop dozens of Chelsea and East Boston residents from joining together to fight foreclosures in the neighborhood. While the event was quickly moved inside after it began to pour, organizer Dominic Desiata was still pleased with the turnout.

"The event went very well," said Desiata. "Tenants, homeowners and allies joined to call attention to the toll the foreclosure crisis is taking on the neighborhood, as well as sharing stories of how locals have fought and won to stay in their homes."

The rally and subsequent press conference highlighted the need for neighbors to come together, and for banks to take meaningful action in negotiating with residents living in foreclosed properties instead of evicting them.

There were testimonies from residents as well as other Bank Tenants from around Greater Boston.

“It was a long fight, but I’m glad we did it. It is a relief to know we’ll have a place to live this winter," said one local resident Julio Chacon, who won a settlement and the right to rent from Citizens Bank, the foreclosing bank. "Now we can focus on supporting our neighbors.”

According to Desiata and his group, foreclosing banks are not willing to do meaningful loan modifications to avoid foreclosure. "Modifications that lower the loan principal are necessary and fair considering the inflated prices at which homes were sold during the Real Estate bubble," he said. "Unfortunately, banks prefer to evict tenants and homeowners rather than negotiate with them."

Desiata said through grassroots organizing, residents have been able to stop many post-foreclosure evictions.

"Tenants and homeowners have been winning the right to stay, and in some cases have been able to purchase their homes at appraised value with the aid of local non-profit lenders," said Desiata. "We want the right to pay rent. Lenders such as Fannie Mae are allowing this. Why shouldn’t other banks do the same?"

Also, local organizations like the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) are offering free clinics for residents fearing the worst and hoping to hold on to their dreams of homeownership.

"We have foreclosure clinics every Monday at 6:00 p.m.," said NOAH’s Carolina Trujillo. "Our program is very complete we can help people with options like refinance, loan restructure/modification, forbearance, repayment plans, short sales and deed in lieu."

NOAH also organized with the state and City of Boston and brought a larger event to Revere High School where major lenders met face to face with borrowers.

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