Blockade stops eviction in Rochester, NY

An eviction blockade in Rochester, New York has given a temporary reprieve to Glenda and Joseph Woods who were facing eviction from the home where they have lived for the past 23 years.

The Rochester City Marshal planned to carry out the eviction on September 27, but the Woods and community supporters from Take Back The Land Rochester, Metro Justice, and Band of Rebels set up a human blockade at the Woods’ home on Webster Ave. to stop the eviction.

As the number of supporters increased, the blockade spilled onto the street causing traffic to be temporarily rerouted.

The Marshal chose not to carry out the eviction and the local police decided not to interfere.

Supporters have set up an encampment near the home to make sure that the bank that claims to hold the mortgage note on Woods’ home, takes no further eviction action.

Take Back the Land Rochester, one of the community groups supporting the Woods, said in a statement that the City of Rochester shouldn’t commit any resources to evict the Woods.

“We believe the city should partner with residents in foreclosure to work out an amicable solution, not mobilize police to enforce evictions that will hurt our neighborhoods,” reads the statement. “If the city commits its resources to support the bank eviction the (Woods’) house will quickly be ransacked, deteriorate and become unlivable, and permanently vacant and until a city-funded bulldozing years from now.”

MidFirst Bank, an Oklahoma based investment and commercial bank that specializes in buying and servicing high interest loans, notified the Woods that it planned to foreclose on their home on Webster Ave where the two had raised their family.

But when the Woods refused to leave, the bank contacted the City Marshal to have them evicted.

The Woods’ problems began four years ago when Ms Woods lost her job as a result of the economic downturn, and they fell behind on their mortgage payments.

The family eventually recovered from their misfortune and resumed making payments on their mortgage. The Woods have tried to work out a deal with MidFirst that would allow them to remain in their home while they paid back the money owed from the missed payments, but so far to no avail.

The Woods are hoping that their resistance to the bank’s foreclosure will persuade the bank to negotiate with them.

A report on the standoff between MidFirst and the Woods at the Take Back the Land Rochester Facebook page says that MidFirst is willing to sell the Woods their home for $90,000. The home’s current tax appraisal value is $28,000.

Take Back the Land called the MidFirst’s offer, “extortion.”

MidFirst is an Oklahoma-based finance company that got its start as a mortgage originator.

In 1991, it closed its mortgage origination business and began purchasing mortgage-backed securities and servicing the loans upon which the securities were based.

Many of the loans in the MidFirst portfolio are high interest loans that are backed by government insurance. Some high interest loans have been associated with predatory lending practices, common in minority communities such as the one where the Woods’ live.

Perhaps one of the reasons that MidFirst has been reluctant to negotiate a deal with the Woods is that when the home is foreclosed, the bank may receive an insurance payout from the Federal Housing Authority.

MidFirst, which has bank branches in Oklahoma and Arizona and loan servicing operations in Houston, Chicago, New York, and Newport Beach, California, reported net earnings in 2012 of $275 million.

Its principal owner is Jeffery Record, Jr., a part-owner of the National Basketball Association’s Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Woods’ mortgage has been traded among several financial investment companies, and MidFirst is the latest to claim ownership.

Like many mortgages that are traded as security investments, the ownership of the Woods’ mortgage is not all that clear.

According to Take Back the Land, MidFirst has not been able to provide documentation that the company owns the mortgage nor can it validate the amount owed by the Woods.

While MidFirst sees the house on Webster Ave. as a securitized investment, to the Woods, it’s their home–a home worth fighting for.


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