“You don’t have to give up.” That’s the message a single mom who has been fighting foreclosure has for other homeowners in a similar situation. Colleen Mckee Espinosa didn’t give up and 20 hours before her home was to be sold at a sheriff’s auction, Citibank cancelled the sale and agreed to a loan modification.
She had some help in her battle from her son Nick Espinosa. He has been helping Occupy Homes MN fight the banks and lenders on behalf of several Minneapolis homeowners.
Espinosa’s mother was reluctant to accept help from the group because she felt “humiliated” not being able to make the payments on her Minneapolis home. She said she overcame that shame when she came to realize it was the banks, not homeowners that should be ashamed for the mortgage foreclosure crisis.
“I realized that that’s exactly how they want you to feel. They want you to be ashamed. ”
How did the deal come about… and why did it take so long?
Occupy Homes MN says the agreement allows her to stay in her home and reduces her monthly payments by one-third. Citibank says it needed to get permission from the owner of the loan, in this case Fannie Mae, and Espinosa has been given a trial period of three months.
The younger Espinosa credits pressure from the public and letters from Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison for persuading Citibank to negotiate. Colleen says support from the nurses union, which she belongs to, also made a difference.
“It feels so good to know that I was able to help my mom stay in her home,” Nick Espinosa told The UpTake’s Jacob Wheeler. “She’s sacrificed so much throughout my entire life, for me and my brother and sister, to give us a better life than she had, to put us through college — and it just feels incredible that knowing she’s going to keep this home.”
“We try very hard to help customers experiencing financial difficulty,” Citibank’s Public Affairs Director Mark Rodgers told The UpTake. “We are pleased to have arrived at an amicable solution for this borrower’s situation.”
But why did it take so long?
Nick Espinosa asked Citibank that question today when they called to tell him the good news.
“I asked why they didn’t just solve this originally a year ago when this whole thing started and they said ‘well things change over time. The policies change and now you qualify for a modification.’
“It wasn’t until they made the offer, Citibank, that Fannie Mae was put in a position to modify or go along with the deal. Just like in Monique (White)’s case US Bank offered her a modification and in that case Freddie Mac was willing to go along with it.
“So really we see the original lender seem to be the correct target to pressure in these cases, to hold them accountable to fix what they did wrong and not modify with the family in the first place. At the same time, we do need to keep the pressure on Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae who are blocking homeowners from getting principle reduction at all.
“Edward DeMarco, President of Freddie Mac has repeatedly said in public that he’s not going to allow homes to be modified and give principle reduction. And so we need that to happen as well. They need to change their banking policy to allow for some flexibility.”
Related: Profile on Colleen and her son Nick
Press release from Occupy Homes MN:
Citibank Cancels Foreclosure Auction of Minneapolis Mom’s Home; Commits to Loan Modification With Reduced Payments
Minneapolis, MN — After a several month campaign pressuring Citibank to negotiate with Colleen Mckee Espinosa and a last minute blitz of social media, petition signatures, and calls to the office of CEO Vikram Pandit, Citibank canceled a scheduled sheriff’s sale and approved a loan modification for the Espinosa’s home. An official with CitiMortgage’s Executive Response Unit contacted the Espinosa family with news that Citibank had approved a loan modification that would keep the family in their home and reduce their payments by one-third on a 7.5 year payment plan. The dramatic news came less than 24 hours before the house was to be sold at auction on Wednesday, June 13.
“I’m so relieved that my family’s home of 16 years will not be on the auction block tomorrow,” said Colleen McKee Espinosa, a nurse and single mother who received widespread support after she pledged not to leave her home without a good faith negotiation. “We are grateful that Citibank has decided to accept my payments, and we look forward to signing the final paperwork.”
Allies from around the country, including OccupyOurHomes.org and Occupy Wall Street, as well as Mckee Espinosa’s union the Minnesota Nurses Association, helped to rally support for the family.
“I am deeply grateful to everyone from across the country who stood with our family as we fought our foreclosure,” said Nick Espinosa, Colleen’s son, and an organizer with Occupy Homes MN. “I’m inspired by the outpouring of community support, and it renews my commitment to stand with other families who are struggling to stay in their homes.”
“I’m incredibly proud of what this family has accomplished,” said Anthony Newby of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. “They’ve managed to rally hundreds of community members to stand with them to save their home. Their campaign will undoubtedly empower other families to stand up and do the same.”
Colleen Mckee Espinosa continued, “When I first learned we were in foreclosure, I felt ashamed and isolated, and sure we were going to lose our home. As I resolved to fight, I realized I had nothing to be ashamed of. If anyone should be ashamed, it’s the banks for tearing apart our communities after we bailed them out with our tax dollars. When we stand together we can win, and I believe thousands more will.”
Nick Espinosa continued, “This negotiation represents a victory not just for our family, but for millions of families facing foreclosures across the country. Countless families could stay in their homes if banks simply modified their loans based on the actual market value and reduced their principal, instead of the price to which banks inflated them before they crashed our economy. As with Monique White and Bobby Hull here in Minneapolis, and others standing up across the nation, we see that when a community stands behind a family and draws attention to their case, the banks are more than capable of solving it. If they can fix it for our family, they can fix it for millions of others.”
Occupy Homes MN is organizing to support other homeowners in situations similar to Colleen Espinosa. They continue to work toward a solution for the Cruz family in South Minneapolis as well as suburban homeowners like John Vinje & Lucinda Vinje-Adams, and Frank & Christina Clark. To learn more about their work, visit occupyhomesmn.org or call 612-460-STAY.