Rochester resident Elizabeth McGriff, who was evicted from her home along with her son in April, has moved back in, and began a re-occupation of the house on Cedarwood Terrace, according to Take Back the Land organizers.
TBTL organizer Ryan Acuff said the group has had prior success in advising residents who’ve faced foreclosure to return to their homes following evictions, in an effort to stay in their houses.
“It is without permission from the bank,” Acuff stated. “Basically, what the Rochester police have said is that they will only come if there’s a court order. So, Midfirst would have to return to court, and get a court order.”
However, in the three years McGriff has been attempting to re-negotiate a new mortgage with MidFirst Bank, he said she’s moved from simply being a Rochester homeowner and resident, to now becoming both a member of Take Back the Land, as well as the national Homes for All campaign.
And, as a result, her conditions for the agreement have changed.
“She’s been in negotiations, and what she’s doing is, she’s calling for this house, and 30 percent of all FHA foreclosures to be donated to community land trusts across the country,” Acuff stated. “It’s part of a national campaign. And so that’s what she’s doing, really focusing on Julian Castro, the head of HUD, because, since 2008, 44 percent of black wealth, and for Latino families 48 percent, and just generally across the country, 30 percent of the wealth, has disappeared. So, we think it’s fair that they give a portion of their foreclosed homes back to the community, and Liz is part of that national campaign. She met with the head of the Fair Housing Administration, and then she was also at the national strategy retreat in Chicago last month, as part of the Homes for All movement.”
According to Acuff, Take Back the Land recently sent a national petition to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, in an effort to garner support for the donation of McGriff’s home to Rochester’s Ujamaa Community Land Trust, and to formally incentivize a process for banks to return foreclosed properties to the community in the future.
“The FHA has allowed this foreclosure crisis to happen,” he stated. “They incentivize banks to foreclose if people fall behind for a few months, then they sell off mortgages that they no longer want to deal with. We think the alternative is massive investments in communities, in the form of community land trusts. The only reason the banks have gotten so big, is because public money is invested in the banks over and over. We think it’s a form of reparations, considering how much they’ve taken.”
TBTL organizers said the group will hold a news conference to announce McGriff’s return to her home May 6, as well as to launch its support for the Homes for All campaign.
The group has pledged to defend McGriff’s home, and to engage in civil disobedience until Castro meets their demands.
“We just put up the petition, and we’re sending out the demand letter to him today,” Acuff stated. “We’ve already gotten 300 signatures so far. So, I think it has some momentum, and people do want to see changes.”
But, although TBTL has called on the FHA to make these regulatory changes, Acuff said the fact that Castro could become the possible running mate of presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has nothing to do with the group’s focus.
“It’s not that we don’t want him to be vice president if Hillary becomes the nominee,” he stated. “We just think he needs to do the right thing while he’s the head of HUD.”
The group’s main purpose is to support residents like Liz McGriff, Acuff stated.
“Liz is another one of those women who’s just very courageous, and we think we need to support tough women in this community,” he said. “She’s really fighting for her family, and we want to support them.”
Neither MidFirst Bank nor Julian Castro was immediately available to respond to a request for comment on the matter.