(Updated 8/19 according to corrections from Jorge Ortiz)
There was a series of events today in support of the Ortiz family of 7463 N. Ridge in Chicago. There will be an article about the events in the next issue of News & Letters, including voices of some of the people there, so this is just a preview.
The Ortiz family bought the house two years ago. They worked hard with volunteers and workers from the Latino Union of Chicago, putting in $80,000 and thousands of hours to fix up the damaged house and turn it into what they call the Rogers Park Community House. It has things our neighborhood needs, a licensed day care and a place for youth programs and community meetings. Jorge Ortiz said, “Imagine if every neighborhood had a community house like this, with free day care for low-income people and free breakfast for kids. Working parents in the neighborhood need day care for their kids.”
They never stopped paying the mortgage until the finance company told them to stop, but needed a loan modification. Fannie Mae, in league with a bank, refused to negotiate in good faith and instead foreclosed and took them to court to evict them. Today’s events started with a press conference and tour of the house. Some supporters joined the Ortiz family later that day at a court hearing to ask the judge not to evict, but to require the bank to negotiate in good faith.
A Latino man from the neighborhood, David, told me that his house is under foreclosure. He is sick and unemployed and can’t pay the mortgage. He paid $2,000 to a company that was supposed to get his loan modified, but it did nothing–which has happened to a lot of people.
Tenants came to support the homeowners. Carol Vialdores, who fought eviction from the Northpoint apartment building, spoke. A man from the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign told me that they have stopped two evictions from Northpoint in the past year.
Holly Krig from the same group told the press conference that 100 people a day face evictions in Cook County. She said that Fannie Mae, which received all kinds of bailout money, pays a bank for the full price of a loan and then receives half the value. Taxpayers make up the difference.
The press conference was attended by about 40 people and was partly a rally too. We chanted in Spanish and English, including, “Aqui estamos! No nos vamos! Stop all home foreclosures! Stop all evictions! Stop kicking people out of their homes! We are here to stay!”
Several of us at the press conference and tour were neighborhood residents. We see the need for this community house, and we sure don’t need another foreclosed house to sit empty here!
You can see my photos on flickr.