BOSTON/Government Center - Labor and tenant organizers gathered in front of the Suffolk County Housing Court Thursday morning to support the family of Dorchester resident Ramon Suero in an anti-foreclosure rally. City Life/Vida Urbana and UNITE HERE Local 26 held the rally and press conference to announce their support of Suero and his family in the fight to keep their home. Their condo unit at 26 Elder Street in Dorchester is worth $80,000 dollars, according to assessments made by contractors working with City Life.
Nicole Summers, a student attorney working on the case with Harvard Legal Aid, said, "We wrote and filed a motion last week. Mr. Suero signed an agreement last October with Freddie Mac. Part of this agreement was that Freddie Mac would respond to any offers made by Boston Community Capitol. Boston Community Capitol has made three offers of $90,000 and Freddie Mac has not responded. The motion we filed is to enforce the agreement and order them to respond to the offers. They postponed today, but we will be arguing it next Thursday in court. The agreement in October had a move-out day scheduled for February 1st. That day has been pushed back until after the hearing."
Freddie Mac is the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. Boston Community Capitol is a bank that partners with community advocates, legal aid organizations and low-income residents to keep foreclosed homeowners and tenants in their homes - with fixed-rate mortgages they can afford.
Suero, who is now a member of the Bank Tenants Association of City Life/Vida Urbana, stood next to his 14-year-old son Steven as he addressed the crowd, "We are asking the court to hold Freddie Mac up to their end of the deal; to negotiate an offer by us to buy back through Boston Community Capitol. We put in three offers of $90,000 dollars. They wanted $319,000 for our condo in Uphams Corner. The value of the condo is $80,000. Other condos in the same building have sold for $80,000. Someone else could get the condo for less than $80,000, so it isn't fair. We have been paying the mortgage every month, and they want to evict us tomorrow. We have been fighting to stay in our home since October." The Sueros were paying a mortgage of $2,082 a month between 2005-2010.
Brian Lang, president of the hotel workers union UNITE HERE Local 26, said. "Ramon and Rosana Suero have three kids and have the opportunity to purchase their home at a lower interest rate. The postponement gives us the change to talk with Freddie Mac and move the process along in favor of the Suero family. Ramon is a member of Local 26. Local 26 has a housing trust fund that employers pay into. Through hotel contracts, we provide free legal service to our members who need help. We put 30-50 members back in their homes every year. Our union has a strong commitment to communities and tries to shift some of the wealth of these large companies to communities."
Suero and his family left the Dominican Republic and moved to Boston in 2002. His family moved into the condo at Uphams Corner in 2005. In an interview with Open Media Boston he said, "I came here with the American Dream of owning a home, and being able to raise my three children in the same place. I have three children, aged fourteen, five, and one. I work two jobs, one at the Courtyard Marriott. My wife works as a sales manager at a store."
Their hardship began in 2009 when Suero was fired from his job in retaliation for union organizing. His wife had been on a four-month medical leave to take care of her ill mother. Although they were both able to find work, Freddie Mac refused to work out an affordable loan modification taking into account the value of the property. The Suero family offered to work out a rental contract, but instead, were taken to court and threatened with eviction.
In a public letter to Orlans Moran Law Offices, Suero claims fraud in their foreclosure. "The investors who sold us our condo for an inflated price maintained ownership of the other two floors, and took out a similarly high mortgage. When they sold those two units last year for their real value, it was for less than 1/3 of what we owed on our mortgage- and the price was lower than what we had offered Freddie Mac for our unit. If absentee investors are getting principal reduction in home prices, then working families like us who are owner-occupants living in and contributing to our neighborhoods should also be able to work out fair solutions when we can't keep up with our underwater mortgages."
Tito Jackson, city councilor for District 7, said, "I'm here to stand up for good people that have fallen on hard times, and to rectify the situation. We have a bank that won't allow the sale of Ramon's home back to his family. The family has lined up funding and can cut a check. The bank is refusing the money because it would be sold back to the same family. These conditions were not what the banks were given when we gave them billions of dollars a few years ago to bail them out.”
Jackson continued, "The Boston City Council has had many resolutions and actions concerning foreclosures. I have personally worked with banks and groups like City Life/ Vida Urbana with foreclosure processes, and in some situations, have helped families move out of their homes when they have been taken advantage of. Not everyone is blessed to have the support and advocacy of the people in Local 26."
According to the city council letter, "All concerned parties will benefit from the establishment of a rental agreement with Ramon Suero while negotiating on their offer to purchase. Boston Community Capital, a nonprofit bank, has approved the Suero family for a loan and made three offers on the purchase." District 5 Councilor Rob Consalvo did not sign the letter the Boston City Council sent to Freddie Mac.
Freddie Mac's public affairs office and Orlans Moran Law Offices did not respond to a requests for comment from Open Media Boston.
At the conclusion of the rally, amid shouts of “When we fight, we win!” a City Life/Vida Urbana organizer announced that the Sueros’ move-out date was being pushed back a week – the lawyers for the bank had requested a postponement of the hearing. The protesters vowed to return and continue the fight.