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Ohio Dem backs call to ‘occupy foreclosures’

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, November 2, 2011 13:53 EDT
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A home foreclosure sign. Flickr commons.
 
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A vote by “Occupy Oakland” earlier this week called on homeless Americans to begin occupying foreclosed and abandoned structures as squatters — and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) couldn’t be happier.

“Thank you, Occupy Oakland,” she told Raw Story this week. “Thank you for caring about families who have been victimized by Wall Street greed.”

Kaptur has been one of the leading homeless advocates in Congress, going so far as to call for people facing foreclosure to squat in their own homes and demand their bank produce the home’s title before kicking them out.

She’s advocated a strategy known as “produce the note,” which challenges foreclosing banks to prove that they own the mortgage. During the years leading up to the financial crash of 2008, most mortgages were bundled up into debt-based derivative investment schemes, then sold and resold again. This has led to an epidemic of missing or improperly completed paperwork, something that many people can leverage in order to stay in their homes longer.

“She said on the House floor and has made the same point many times since then: homeowners should not abandon their homes just because they receive a foreclosure notice,” one of Kaptur’s aides told Raw Story. “What she had noticed in our area of Northern Ohio is that people were scared and would flee as soon as the foreclosure process began. She told them to stay in their homes and get legal help. If they couldn’t afford an attorney, call legal aid. If they still had problems finding an attorney, call her office and we would help them find help.

“But her message was consistent: don’t just give up your dreams. Fight for your rights. Many people left their homes before they had exhausted their legal remedies.”

While that’s slightly different than what “Occupy Oakland” called for — they want people occupying structures that they didn’t ever really own — it didn’t deter her enthusiasm for it.

Even so, there’s still some leverage to be had simply from squatting, known under the law as adverse possession. For one, the property owner must make a complaint to police before an eviction can take place. With so many foreclosed homes around the country, that’s a tall order for any bank to fill, making squatting seem like a plan that virtually guarantees homeless families at least a little time off the streets.

The call from “Occupy Oakland” to re-take foreclosed structures is only the most recent movement against bank-owned properties sitting vacant. The advocacy group Homes Not Jails recently teamed up with “Occupy San Francisco” to begin occupying hundreds of empty homes, giving homeless people places to stay and asserting the rights of squatters across the city in an effort to build it into a real political movement. A similar effort has been ongoing in Portland, as well.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who represents Oakland, did not respond to a request for comment on this story. She did, however, make a general statement in support of “Occupy Oakland” and their call for a general strike taking place Wednesday, saying she’s in favor of “bringing attention to the great inequalities that exist in the United States.”

“As the movement grows, we are likely to see more actions aimed at underscoring the inequalities faced by the 99% and we should support actions with these aims in mind,” her prepared statement reads. “I continue to stand with the peaceful protesters in this struggle for economic justice and equality.”

Photo: Flickr user respres.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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