The Occupy Wall Street movement is gaining steam all across America, and one of the key flashpoints right is in the San Francisco area, where a woman may ultimately be heralded as the movement’s Rosa Parks.
In one section of San Francisco called the Bayview District, which is predominantly an African‑American neighborhood, there are more than 1,400 homes on the verge of foreclosure, according to data from RealtyTrac.
More than 100 of them are listed right now for sale and Bayview residents say that they were targeted and victimized by predatory lenders who lured them into untenable mortgages that were unaffordable and that later, these same lenders refused to negotiate loan modifications.
Now, one long‑time resident of the Bayview district is fighting back. That woman is named Carolyn Gage.
Her family has lived for 52 years in a three-bedroom house on Quesada Street and she was evicted from the home in January, according to a report from SFGate.com. But last month Gage, her husband and her children moved back into the home and, in her words, “reclaimed it” from the bank. In other words, they broke back into the house and have been living there because Gage says she was defrauded by a predatory lender that has now gone bankrupt.
In the wake of that bankruptcy another financial entity, which is located in Coral Gables, Florida, has assumed the loan. But in Gage’s words, “They’ve refused to work out any kind of a deal, a loan modification,” or to work with her at all.
The fact that this woman is pulling a “Rosa Parks” – by refusing to sit still with what she calls an unjust system – is going to embolden many people in the Occupy movement, as well as others across the country, who have been foreclosed upon and who feel unjustly treated due to everything from the robo‑signing scandal, to banks’ refusal to negotiate loan modifications, to denials for new mortgages and refinances.
All of this, I suspect, will lend support to people taking unprecedented actions that might have been, a year or two ago, unheard of. After all, if protestors can Occupy Wall Street, how far fetched is it for displaced homeowners to try to occupy their previous residences?
Already, Occupy Oakland sent a message on Twitter noting that its general assembly has “passed a proposal to encourage the occupation of bank-owned/foreclosed and abandoned properties across Oakland.”
It will be very interesting to see what happens with Carolyn Gage. Will her family ultimately get to stay? Will their efforts and the social and political maneuvering in Oakland later be shown to be a lightning rod for a whole bunch of other homeowners who were foreclosed upon (justly or unjustly), or for people who were allegedly baited into fraudulent loans?
Those details remain to be seen. But in the meantime, Carolyn Gage sure is getting a lot of attention.
She had the media out in full force, she had members of Occupy San Francisco at her back and she also had union members who flanked her at a recent public event, where she publicly stated that she was doing this ‑‑ as she said in front of a crowd of about 60 people ‑‑ to reclaim her home.
I wonder how many other homeowners across the country will start reclaiming their homes? We’ve already got more than five million home owners in the US who are either in foreclosure or 90 days or more behind on their mortgage.
Carolyn Gage may or may not go down as the “Rosa Parks” of this movement. But one thing is for sure: she surely won’t be the last person to “reclaim” her home – not since scores of other Americans also feel (rightly or wrongly) that their consumer and homeownership rights have been trampled upon and exploited.
I don’t know enough facts about Carolyn Gage’s situation to pass judgment on her one way or another. But what’s your take on this situation? Is this woman crazy or courageous?