John and Lucinda Vinje risked losing their Bloomington, Minn., home to a sheriff’s sale this week after it went through foreclosure. But the Occupy Homes movement, which has come to their defense, staged a spirited rally Monday morning at the Hennepin County Government Center and at Minneapolis City Hall to defend the Vinje home. Occupy activists made it clear to any potential buyers that if you acquire the home, the demonstrators come with it.
“We’re gonna let any potential buyer know that when they buy John Vinje’s house, they’re not just buying a house, they’re buying a serious problem for themselves,” said Occupy Homes activist Ty Moore. “They’re buying a homeowner who says he’s not leaving, and they’re buying a social movement that says we’re going to defend John and homeowners like him.”
Ultimately, no buyers showed up — giving John Vinje a likely six-week window of opportunity to negotiate with U.S. Bank. The Air Force veteran, security guard and union activist with SEIU declared victory with a defiant speech in the basement of City Hall.
“So, we’ve been putting pressure on U.S. Bank for five and a half months,” he told Occupy activists. “You know what? They finally buckled. We got until the end of May now to sit down with them and talk about getting the mortgage loan fixed.”
“Not only did we win for my wife and I today. But this sets a precedent for every other homeowner across the state of Minnesota. Don’t let these big banks scare you by saying they’re gonna take you to a sheriff’s sale. We were backed into a corner and you know who buckled? It’s not us, it’s them! They have seen the power of the 99 percent and they don’t want to mess with the 99 percent.”
Meanwhile, two dozen Occupy Homes activists, some holding a sign stating “US Bank Give the Vinjes a Fair Shake”, sang the popular protest song “We shall not be moved” while chanting “Whose house? John’s house!”
John Vinje claims that he and Lucinda bought their Bloomington house in 2008 for $148,000. But the recent plunge in home prices sent their market value down to $90,000, according to a recent assessment by the city and the county. Five months ago they tried to negotiate with U.S. Bank to modify the terms of the mortgage. Three weeks ago they got a reply, stating that the bank was willing to lower their monthly amount by only $97.
Vinje scoffs at the lender’s claim that an investor of the mortgage prevents the bank from modifying.
“Whenever we try to talk to them about altering the loan modification, they say ‘our investor might not want to’. But there is no investor: they’re the ones that show up on the mortgage; they’re the ones that show up on the promissory note, they’re the ones who leant the money. There is no shadow investor out there that they keep referring to.”