Redemption: I Survived A Home Foreclosure
A personal recovery story from the subprime mortgage crisis
Jamaica native Melonie Griffith had pretty much all she really wanted: marriage, children, and a dream home in Boston.
Despite having declared bankruptcy in her early 30s, the paraprofessional in Boston Public Schools and her husband were able to purchase a $470,000 Dorchester duplex in 2004 at the height of the real estate bubble.
But she separated from her husband a year later, and it wasn't long until she fell behind on the $4,000 monthly mortgage payments.
When the housing bubble burst in 2007, the value of Griffith's two-family property plummeted to $260,000, nearly half of the amount of her mortgage. Although U.S. Bank and Countrywide were her original lenders, Griffith says it was the New Hampshire-based subprime firm Ocwen, which took over her mortgage, that she ended up fighting.
[Here's How To Go From Foreclosure To Home Ownership]
Within four years, the bank foreclosed, and a sheriff was at the door ready to forcibly evict her and her three children.
“They weren’t really working with me,” Griffith said. “One of the things they were unwilling to do was reduce the principal.”
City Life/Vida Urbana, a Boston-based organization, staged a blockade for Griffith in January 2008. Dozens of community members formed a human chain blocking the officers from her front porch. That kept the eviction from happening and brought the bank to the negotiating table. But initial talks fell apart.
Two months later, the bank issued another 48-hour eviction. City Life staged a second blockade, which again kept Griffith and her three children off the street.
In the end, she couldn't come to an affordable long-term agreement with the bank and she had to leave the home -- but at least not with a police escort.
She moved into an apartment down the street. After a year, Boston Community Capital helped her move into an affordable condo. She’s been there ever since.
“One of the names people use for us is ‘Project No One Leaves,’” said Steven Meacham, organizing coordinator for City Life. “We urge people not to move when the bank tells them to move. You can win all kinds of [agreements] you’d think were not possible. And that understanding is spreading.”