Edda Lopez Speaks at Rally from Alex Kratz on Vimeo.
[Update, 5:55 p.m., Tuesday: Spoke earlier today with Justin Haines, Lopez's lawyer. My brain still hurts. This thing is a million times more complex than I thought, but this post will at least give you an idea of what's going on here. We'll have a more fleshed out version of the story in next week's Norwood News. Also, apologies to Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who we left out of the first draft of this post. Cabrera, who showed up with at least two staff members -- Greg Faulkner and Zellnor Myrie -- said he canceled an event to be there and spoke at the rally.]
Everything was going great for Edda Lopez 15 years ago. You could say she was living the American Dream here in the Bronx. She had a good job, a good husband and a family. She became a homeowner.
But her world quickly began to crumble (see video above), starting with the death of her husband from diabetes complications. Soon, she became ill herself and eventually lost her job.
In an effort to keep her home, Lopez attempted to refinance her mortgage, but says she was swindled by a mortgage broker into accepting a so-called "balloon" mortgage. The monthly loan payments eventually ballooned to the point where she couldn't keep up with them, although she continued to make partial payments.
Recently, Lopez took advantage of a new federal program called the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which gives banks incentive to modify the terms of loans in order to make them more affordable for homeowners like Lopez.
Despite keeping up with her new payment plan, Lopez found out from Bank of America (which owns her mortgage) that her house was going up for sale and that she would be evicted in just two weeks. She says she had only found out because she called the bank for another reason.
That's when leaders of her church, New Day, teamed up with organizers and activists from the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition to fight her eviction. They enlisted the help of lawyers from the Legal Aid Society, Councilman Fernando Cabrera, the Borough President's Office and staffers from Congressman Jose E. Serrano's office and then organized a rally in front of the Bank of America on the corner of Fordham Road and Valentine Avenue, last Thursday afternoon. (Watch video of New Day Pastor Doug Cunningham at the rally below.)
Doug Cunningham at B of A Rally from Alex Kratz on Vimeo.
Before the rally even began, a Bank of America vice president in North Carolina, called Lopez's lawyer, Justin Haines, and said they were not familiar with the loan modification terms or Lopez's payment history as the bank had only acquired it (when it acquired Wilshire Credit Corporation) in March. Haines also said they wanted to set up a meeting to talk about the terms of the loan, which local Coalition activist Jospeh Ferdinand hailed as "small victory."
“Bank if America is the new loan service, so they have to get up to date with all the cases that Wilshire left them with,” Haines said at the rally. Haines said that, unfortunately, homeowners like Lopez who are facing swift eviction with little notice or understanding is not uncommon. Fortunately, he said, Lopez had the support of local organizations like her church and the Coalition and elected officials.
Brad German, a spokesperson for Freddie Mac, said Bank of America should have had all of Lopez's loan information and payment history in a file provided by the previous lender.
Bank of America could not immediately be reached for comment.