On Wednesday PLAN hosted a Legislative Town Hall for struggling home owners in Southern Nevada. Our own state happens to be home to one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country. Banks in America have often times (if not always) made the matter even worse. How many times have we heard the stories of underwater homeowners trying to work with their banks to fix their drowning mortgages, only to get the run around.
That’s exactly what happened to Elizabeth of Sun Valley native in Northern Nevada. She has been trying to work with her bank since 2009 to no avail, including four failed attempts to fix her mortgage with her bank. They’ve even “lost” her paperwork. Elizabeth now fears that one day she won’t have a home to go to.
It’s stories like Elizabeth that inspires me to organize for home owners.
More than 40 members of the community turned out for PLAN’s legislative town hall. Included in the panel were Nevada State Senators Tick Segerblom & Justin Jones, along with Venicia Considine from Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. Others in attendance included Leslie Lewis from Senator Harry Reid’s office who handed out flyers for their upcoming Housing Helpdesk event this Saturay, Christina Tetreault from Consumers Union, Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, and Brian DeMarzio representing Congresswoman Dina Titus.
As I welcomed everyone into the town hall, I pointed to the three story boards displayed around the room that highlighted many of the stories we collected from struggling home owners. The stories ranged from people seeking a principal reduction to people who have already had their house foreclosed. It was a chilling reminder of what Nevadans have gone through since the collapse of the market. The story boards had a real effect on the state senators; Senator Segerblom kept referencing back to them when he talked about his bill proposals.
We were especially pleased to have Venicia explain the proposed Home Owners Bill of Rights (a more in depth post on the HOBOR to come later). Venicia is an invaluable resource and Nevada is really lucky to have someone like her fighting on behalf of the community.
After Senators Segerblom and Jones & Venicia finished their opening remarks, the town hall was open for Q&A from the audience. Teresa’s story is what brought the entire town hall into perspective. Teresa is a school teacher in Las Vegas, NV who has been living in her car for the past couple days. Her home is about to be foreclosed and she is a single mother of two. She tried asking then-Senator Ensign and Governor Sandoval for help but was told that Nevada “has no jurisdiction” on her bank. Which begs to ask the question: why were they doing business in the state of Nevada if they’re not even a registered business entity here? Emotions ran high and I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the room once she finished telling her story. I actually got a call from her an hour and a half before the town hall asking if she could attend even though she’ll be a bit late. Teresa just got done teaching a class before attending. Thankfully, Teresa was connected with people who might be able to help her out.
I hope that we won’t have to hear stories Teresa’s; no one, especially an educator, should have to go through this. But until then, we’ll have to fight harder on behalf of home owners. The audience agree, legislation is just part of the solution. We have to do our part to make sure that the stories of people already affected by this housing crisis aren’t forgotten and serve as a reminder that the road to economic justice is a long one, but with the help of our fellow activists we will get there.