Homeless Families Placed In Vacant Homes Causes Controversy

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Foreclosed HomesAcross the country, organizations, such as the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign and Occupy Our Homes (a spin-off of the Occupy Wall St. Movement), have been protesting the eviction practices of banks by moving homeless families in to vacant foreclosed properties, according to the Chicago Tribune.

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One of the latest public recipient of a home is 40-year-old Tene Smith (pictured), who is a single Mother of four. With the help of anti-eviction organization Liberate South Side, Smith and her family were moved in to a Chicago two-bedroom, one bathroom duplex as squatters; she is what Liberate likes to call a “tenant without a lease.”

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But the move has quite a few complications.

The house is indeed already owned by a private owner, Benjamin Dodd, who moved out because he could no longer afford the payments. The Chicago Tribune reports:

The … duplex on a quiet, wide street in the Calumet Heights neighborhood sold in March 2006 for $114,500 to Benjamin Dodd, according to public records. In July 2007, it fell into foreclosure. By June 2011, the home was listed in the city’s vacant building registry as a partially secured troubled building.

Even though, Dodd, who still owns the house, has been advised by his real estate agent to call the police on the Smiths, Dodd has told them that they can remain in the house until the house sells.

To these anti-eviction organizations that move the homeless in to these foreclosed homes, this is justice for countless Americans who haven’t been able to catch a break since the Great Recession and the sub-prime lending fiasco began. To Occupy Our Homes, for example, while the big banks were bailed out, regular American citizens were not. Further, why should a plethora of vacant homes abound when there are a number of distressed citizens who are homeless?

And how are the banks reacting to their new psuedo-residents?

Interestingly enough, due to the bad press many banks have gotten after throwing families out of their homes, many are quietly attempting to negotiate terms with both foreclosed owners and new residents.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

Mortgage servicers, reeling with hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes, aren’t necessarily giving in. But they have to tread carefully in their dealings with consumers and activists, lest they risk more national media attention and another black eye resulting from news accounts of bankers putting families out on the street, regardless of whether they have a legal right to the home.

Clearly, it is a sticky situation.

On the one hand, families are finding both inspiration and support in these new homes, but what happens when original owners show up to their homes and find someone else living there?

This plausible scenario has happened, which is likely why many anti-eviction groups make the move-ins as public as possible, even calling in the press to cover it. That way, if there is going to be any push-back on a particular property from an original homeowner, the organizations can likely find another property that doesn’t have the same issues.

While the move-ins do provide temporary relief — all “new tenants” are aware that the housing is temporary — they cause quite a bit of heartache for original owners who want to reclaim or sell their homes. Due to Illinois’ Forcible Entry and Detainer Act, these “new tenants” cannot be forced out of the homes.

So who is really being punished here?

At the end of the day, the original owner, who lost their home to begin with, can find themselves racking up expensive costs in litigation for trying to sue the dweller. Yet, maybe the relief is a better alternative than being homeless. To Smith, the home occupation has “lifted [her] spirits. It inspires [her] to do more extraordinary things with [her] life.”

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