Quick Hit Michael Joyce Thursday July 30th, 2015, 4:51pm

New Housing Campaign Casts Spotlight On Those At Risk Of Foreclosure, Eviction

Demonstrators gathered outside of several downtown financial institutions this week to launch a social media campaign highlighting the fact that while the financial crisis might be over, many are still at risk of eviction from their homes.

The demonstration began outside of the Citibank on 11 South LaSalle St. Tuesday, where demonstrators chanted, "We got sold out, banks got bailed out."

The ralliers continued on to four other financial institutions in the area: Chase Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Fannie Mae.

This demonstration marks the launch of the Fannie/Freddy 99 Coalition's national social media campaign, called "We Are the Faces of Eviction."

The hope is to put pressure on the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Mel Watt. The housing advocates would like to see him install a policy allowing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac homeowners to receive principal reductions on their mortgages, thereby helping them avoid foreclosure and eviction.

In front of Citibank, Virginia Morales, a mother of two whose family home is facing foreclosure, said, "The Morales family will not give up, we will fight!" She would like to see the bank work with her family in order to find a solution that suits both parties.

The Morales family fell behind on their mortgage payments in 2009, and have been battling a Citibank foreclosure since 2010.

Morales says that she has tried to work with Citibank to find a solution, but has found the bank to be uncooperative.

"In the beginning it seemed they wanted to help," Morales told Progress Illinois. "Unfortunately we've done over four qualifications and it hasn't worked, they haven't approved us. We've tried working with house counselors, but it never works."

Morales says the only option she now has is a short sell, but she doesn't want to leave her family home.

"We don't want to do a short sell. We've been living in that house for over 30 years," says Morales. "My brother and I were raised in that house, now my children are being raised there. We don't want to leave our community."

Jorge Ortiz also participated in the demonstration. He detailed a similar experience when his family home was foreclosed on.

His mother was evicted in 2009, during the height of the housing crisis.

Ortiz says his family, like many others, turned to financial companies offering assistance once they had difficulty making their payments. Ortiz said the company promised that his mother would get a loan modification, but the bank denied it.

"They denied her a modification when she was making less money than the first loan," Ortiz told Progress Illinois. "They denied her when she was making the same amount as she was originally, then she got denied a third time when she was making more money that when she first got the loan."

"There's no logic to their policies," said Ortiz.

While it is certainly difficult to get an audience with the banks, it's not impossible, according to Marsilla Iza, who successfully renegotiated her housing loan with Fannie Mae.

"It was a very intense four years," said Iza. "I had to fight and rally in the streets, but I can say there was victory on the other side."

Many think the housing market has stabilized and evictions are no longer an issue, according to Antonio Gutierrez, housing coordinator for Centro Autonomo, but that is not the case.

Gutierrez says there are now 21 active eviction cases in the Albany Park, Belmont Cragin, and Avondale neighborhoods alone.

Gutierrez says these foreclosures target minority and low-income communities, partly because "we see housing as a commodity in America, not as a human right that people should have access to."

"Private investors are just there to take advantage of someone being evicted from their home of 15 years," Gutierrez told Progress Illinois. "They buy the house really cheap from the bank at auction, flip it, and then newcomers come to the neighborhood."

Gutierrez describes this as the familiar "process of gentrification and the displacement of people of color and the low income in our communities."

The Chicago rally was the first physical demonstration of the "We are the Faces of Eviction" campaign, and more will follow across the country over the coming months.

The "We are the Faces of Eviction" social media campaign can be found here.

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