Mel Watt: We’re Not Going Anywhere!

Community “Block Takeover” demonstrates the resistance prepared to fight any evictions by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac in Springfield, Massachusetts … READ MORE …


Check Out Great Coverage from Michelle Williams at the Springfield Republican Here! 
Check out Joe Oliverio’s event photos here and video here!
See video of the successful Eviction Defense of Jeff’s home in January 2014

Jeff Solivan in front of vacant FNMA owned home at 55 Edgemont St

Jeff Solivan in front of vacant FNMA owned home at 55 Edgemont St   photo: Joe Oliverio

On Tuesday night June 24, 2014 over 100 Springfield residents and allies joined Jeffery Solivan to fight eviction from his home by Fannie Mae and Mel Watt, the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac.

Neighbors, members of the Springfield Bank Tenant Association (SBTA), and community, faith & labor organizations, held vigil at 32 Edgemont Street to demand affordable housing for Mr. Solivan and families across the nation, and then proceeded to march through the streets to 6 vacant homes – all owned by banks after foreclosure – in the neighborhood, where huge monopoly themed banners marked the homes with the name of the banksters that are causing the blight and destruction.

The crowd then marched back to the house to stage a mock “block shutdown” to demonstrate to Fannie Mae and Mel Watt the type of civil disobedience they plan if a sheriff comes to evict Mr. Solivan. About 40 people linked arms in front of the home to form a human chain, and another 30 linked arms to block incoming traffic, demonstrating how the community would block a moving truck from coming to remove Jeffery’s things from the home.

“I would be happy to maintain my home and pay what I can to avoid homelessness,” Mr. Solivan says. “Fannie Mae, as a government-run agency, should turn my home into an affordable rental. But if they choose to evict, I’m ready to fight that eviction.”

Mr. Solivan bought his home in 2007 at the height of the bank created housing bubble. He was employed working at a homeless shelter at the time. In 2008, following the economic collapse, he was let go without explanation leaving him unemployed. Shortly after, Mr. Solivan suffered a heart attack and then was hit by a car in 2012, leaving him unable to work. Like millions of others he now lives on a fixed social security income, which is not enough to be able to afford rising rents in the city or the country.

Since 2008 the two government sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have withheld more than $570 million (through 2013) in congressionally mandated funding for the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) that would create and maintain thousands of affordable housing units. A recent report released in June by the Right To The City Alliance called “Rise of the Renter Nation” show that more than 11 million renters now pay more than 50% of their income on housing in the United States, far higher than the 30% figure considered to be “affordable rent.”

“Fannie Mae insists on evicting families like Jeff’s even though refuse to fund the NHTF, and have some of the worse foreclosure related policies in the country,” explains SBTA leader Sue Gamelli. “Turning this home into an affordable rental can be part of the millions Fannie Mae owes the taxpayers.”

Jeff and his family members would be willing to pay 30% of their income toward rent, in line with HUD standards for affordable housing, which would be in the range of $500 – $600/month. Due to state Emergency Shelter regulations passed in 2013, families displaced by foreclosure cannot access shelter. If the eviction proceeds, Mr. Solivan will be left homeless and his home will become the seventh vacant home on his block alone.

“We don’t need more vacant homes on our block,” explains Jacques Fortilus, a neighbor on Edgemont St. “Vacant homes aren’t good for anybody. We all know it opens our neighborhood up to drugs and crime, drops the price of homes, destroys our neighborhood and cost the taxpayers money.”

Across the country, housing and community groups are demanding that Mel Watt suspend all evictions and foreclosures by Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac until he reviews and changes key policies relating to foreclosure & affordable housing. Mel Watt was appointed to head the FHFA in January, a major victory for grassroots organizations across the country who called on Obama to replace former director Edward DeMarco. However, Watt has thus far remained silent on Fannie and Freddie’s plans for principal reductions, post-foreclosure buy backs and affordable housing funding while families like Jeffery’s are evicted and left on the streets. Watt is expected to release a mandated proposal for affordable housing this July.

“I can’t wait for Mel Watt to make proposals or think about things anymore. Millions of people like me need him to take action now,” says Jeff Solivan.

Groups across the Northeast and the country are planning to escalate action on Mel Watt throughout the summer and fall.

About SNOL

Springfield No One Leaves is a member-led community organization dedicated to organizing families most affected by the economic & foreclosure crisis. We organize against displacement and eviction and to defend our homes and our communities. Springfield Nadie Se Mude es una organización comunitaria dirigida por nuestros miembros y dedicada a organizar residentes más afectados por la crisis económica y de ejecuciones hipotecarias. Organizamos contra desplazamiento y desalojo y para defender nuestros hogares y nuestras comunidades.
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