Taking a Stand 

Many East Bay residents have been fighting foreclosures with the help of community activist groups that put pressure on banks.

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With the state Homeowner Bill of Rights now in effect, activist organizations are also mobilizing to make sure it's enforced. "It's going to take homeowners organizing," said ACCE organizer Claire Haas. "We've been talking to a few people with sale dates in January. Those should have disappeared January 1 [because of the law against dual tracking]. If they don't, we have actions planned."

Some of the foreclosures that grassroots groups are fighting, however, may be perfectly legal. That's not the point, say some activists. There's a larger issue of social justice. "The most grievous part is that people are sitting outside homes — I'm working with two people who are in shelters now — and their homes are empty," said Myhand of Causa Justa/Just Cause. "We're not going to accept being made homeless so the One Percent can be rich."

Myhand sees the current foreclosure crisis as a continuation of housing policies that began in the 1980s. "There was disinvestment from housing and urban development, no commitment to invest in public housing, no pressure on developers to invest in affordable housing. Those of us with homes said, 'I have a home.' New Orleans tore down habitable public housing after Katrina. And we still didn't speak out. That was a signal to the One Percent: 'These people are lambs to the slaughter.' When the middle class failed to respond to things that happened to the poor, we didn't realize that when they finish with them, they move on to us."

In the last few years, however, Myhand added, "there's been a dramatic shift toward a demand for accountability from banks — for crashing the economy, for taking our homes. We attribute some of that shift to our work."

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