Housing activists and "Occupy"protesters were gearing up Tuesday to take over foreclosed homes and empty lots and help defend families facing eviction in at least 25 cities as part of a bid to re-energize the grassroots movement and put the spotlight on the ongoing housing crisis.
From towns such as Southgate, Mich., and Lake Worth, Fla., to cities like Portland, Ore., and Chicago, activists were planning to disrupt auctions on foreclosed homes, hold candlelight vigils and join families battling eviction in their residences. In Denver, they were intending to dump trash from empty homes on the mayor's lawn; in Minneapolis they planned to help a veteran remain in his foreclosed home; in New York they planned to move a homeless family into an abandoned home.
"Like September 17, when Occupy Wall Street started, people looked at it and there was this real question, 'Is this going to last? how is it going to grow?' and one of the reasons it grew is that as people stayed down at Zuccotti Park ... other people were inspired to take action," said Matt Browner Hamlin, an activist with occupyourhomes.org. "This is not something (where) ... we want a family to have a home for a day, we want them to have that home for a lifetime."
"Occupy" protesters already have been squatting in vacant houses in cities like New York, Seattle, Portland, Oakland and London, where protesters have taken over an abandoned office block bought by UBS several years ago and dubbed it the "Bank of Ideas." They also have made scattered efforts – some of them successful -- to help families facing eviction defend their homes in California, West Harlem, and Minneapolis, among other places.
Banks are expected to repossess some 800,000 homes this year, down from more than 1 million last year, said RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio. But the number of U.S. homes that received a first-time default notice during the July to September quarter increased 14 percent compared to the second quarter of the year, according to the firm.
The increase is a sign that banks are now moving more aggressively against borrowers who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments following industrywide foreclosure processing problems that emerged last fall. Those problems resulted in a sharp drop in foreclosure activity early this year.
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