NAACP Petitions Md. Governor to Suspend Foreclosures

Joshua Garner | 11/14/2013, 8:01 a.m. | Updated on 11/20/2013, 3 p.m.
A coalition of community groups led by the Prince George’s County Chapter of the NAACP is calling on Maryland Gov. ...
From left: Yatta Thompson-Quire, Bob Ross, president of the Prince George's County NAACP, and Cynthia Carter during the town hall meeting in Landover, Md., on Saturday, Nov. 16. Travis Riddick

A coalition of community groups led by the Prince George’s County Chapter of the NAACP is calling on Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to suspend home foreclosures in the state and to investigate allegations of irregularities in foreclosure proceedings.

The coalition, which also includes Casa de Maryland, the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, Inc., and the National Action Network, held a town hall meeting Saturday, Nov. 16 at Jericho City of Praise in Landover.

“We’ve got to be proactive instead of reactive,” said Gerald Stansbury, president of the Maryland State Conference of NAACP.

More than 100 people packed into a conference hall at the church; many told the crowd they were victims of the cycle of foreclosure in which they were instructed to skip payments by their mortgage lenders in order to begin a loan modification. The modifications and other important paperwork are often lost and mortgages are sold to other lenders who begin foreclosure proceedings, said NAACP officials.

“It has become clear that servicers use questionable tactics,” said Carmen Johnson, chairwoman of the Prince George’s County NAACP Housing Committee. “There is a process here that lacks integrity.”

Community leaders said foreclosures in the state overwhelming affect minority communities, sapping property values and wealth from families who have built equity in their homes.

“We want to keep our homes because there is wealth in our homes,” said Maryland Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-Dist. 25) of Mitchellville. “When you don’t have that wealth, you don’t have that kind of economic [independence].”

NAACP leaders said they’re concerned with the high number of foreclosure activity in Maryland, which is on the rise. Foreclosures in the state increased by 5.7 percent in the third quarter of this year, according to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. Foreclosures have increased by nearly 198 percent since last year; Maryland’s foreclosure rate is 70.5 percent above the national rate of 28.8 percent.

Communities in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County have the highest rates of foreclosure events, accounting for 19 percent and 17.4 percent respectively of the state’s total, according to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

“Maryland homeowners need more assistance,” said Johnson. “We are asking our governor to do the moral thing. Freeze all foreclosures in the state of Maryland and help us save our homes.”

A spokesperson for O’Malley said he was aware of the NAACP’s request but directed questions to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

“Maryland is one of the most aggressive states in dealing with foreclosures,” said Wiley Hall, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. “We’ve successfully saved thousands of homes – we’re working hard at that.”

Hall said O’Malley along with Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler (D) issued a joint statement in 2010 calling for an investigation and moratorium on foreclosures in the state amid disclosures that several lenders had approved thousands of foreclosure affidavits without proper vetting.

“Although Maryland has had one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country through much of 2013, those numbers do not reflect a new wave of foreclosures, but the backlog of seriously delinquent loans dating from the [2007-2008] collapse [that are] now working their way through the foreclosure process,” Hall said in an email.

Still, being in the backlog of foreclosures offers little hope to victims.

Cynthia Carter, a former council member in the City of Annapolis, said she and her husband are facing foreclosure on a home that they have lived in for 30 years. Like others, she said her mortgage was sold to another lender without her knowledge and she’s spent time chasing court cases regarding the foreclosure. Still uncertain if she will save her home, she urged the crowd to continue to press elected leaders to intervene.

“Keep pushing and thriving” she told the audience. “We are all in the same boat.”

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