Some 50 family, friends and neighbors attended as well as Occupy Minnesota organizers Nick Espinosa and Anthony Newby.
“We first met Kristina when she was volunteering at the kitchen on the People’s Plaza, now she and her husband Frank Clark need our support to help save their home from foreclosure,” Espinosa said.
“We are expanding our movement to include more and more families in the metro area with ‘foreclosure free barbecues’ to celebrate the kick off of campaigns to keep families like Frank and Kristina’s in their homes.”
The barbeque was the first of several public events planned by the Clarks and Occupy Minnesota.
Another is scheduled April 1, according to Frank Clark.
The Clarks purchased their Coon Rapids home in 2006 for $230,000 with a conventional, 30-year fixed rate mortgage through the Bank of America.
“We were both working full time and based the mortgage on those salaries,” said Kristina Clark.
“We had no problems making the payments.”
Frank Clark is a construction worker, a dues paying member of the Laborers Union for 13 years and worked on the new I-35W bridge, while Kristina is employed in the financial services industry.
According to Kristina Clark, they made their monthly payments on time until the summer of 2009 when the economic recession hit and Frank’s hours were reduced.
Indeed, since then Frank has only worked about six months out of the year at most – he has not had a job since September 2011 – and she has not had a raise in the six years they have lived in the house, Kristina Clark said.
Unable to make the monthly payments and aware of the Obama Administration’s policy that banks and mortgage lenders should be willing to renegotiate the mortgages of homeowners having problems paying their mortgages, the Clarks approached Bank of America about restructuring their loan, she said.
They were offered a payment that was about $100 less than before, but ended up with a higher payment because the insurance costs were increased, Kristina Clark said.
“We were paying $1,538 a month before, but after the modification we had to pay $1,662 a month,” she said.
According to Kristina, efforts to contact Bank of America to modify their loan failed because no one from the bank would speak to them.
When she went to the Bank of America office in Blaine where they originally got the loan, there was never anyone there, and when she attempted to call the office number, it was disconnected, Kristina Clark said.
Indeed, in 2010 when the couple filed for bankruptcy, they found out from their bankruptcy attorney that Bank of America had started foreclosure proceedings on their home, she said.
That was put on hold during the bankruptcy case, but when the Clarks emerged from bankruptcy last year, the bank resumed the foreclosure process.
Last month, Feb. 6, the Clark’s house was sold at a sheriff’s sale. The buyer was Bank of America for $139,000.
“Bank of America was unwilling to offer Frank and Kristina a good faith negotiation,” Espinosa said.
“They were, however, more than willing to modify the loan with themselves.”
In a e-mail statement to the Herald, Jumana Bauwens, media relations, Bank of America home loans, said that Bank of America is committed to “working with our customers to avoid foreclosure.”
According to Bauwens, any relationship they have with a third party will not affect that commitment.
The sale set in motion the six-month redemption period, during which time the Clarks have the opportunity to buy back the property.
The paperwork that the Clarks received from the attorney representing bank in the foreclosure had a 1-800 phone number for the Clarks to call, Kristine Clark said.
“But when I called it was a collection service wanting us to pay $37,000,” she said.
In the meantime, the Clarks, with the help of Occupy Minnesota, have filed papers with the Minnesota Attorney’s General Office seeking an investigation to make sure the original mortgage was above board.
“We are not planning to move,” Kristina Clark said.
“What we want is for the bank to negotiate in good faith. We don’t want anything free, but something affordable to keep us in the house.”
The Clarks became involved with Occupy Minnesota last fall “because people were losing their jobs and homes,” she said.
Kristina Clark was a kitchen volunteer at the Occupy Minnesota sit-in at the Hennepin County Government Center in November and Frank Clark has taken part in several Occupy Minnesota activities since then.
“Frank and Kristina have taken the pledge and are willing to stay in the home until the bank offers them a reasonable solution that will keep them in the home,” Espinosa said.
According to Espinosa, Occupy Minnesota will be helping the Clarks by putting public pressure on the bank to renogotiate the mortgage so they can stay in their home.
The barbeque was the first step in that process, Espinosa said.
Occupy Minnesota was successful in that effort earlier this year when Bank of America modified the mortgage for Minneapolis resident Bobby Hull, who was facing foreclosure.
Hull was present at Saturday’s event at the Clark home to lend his support.
The number of homeowners facing the loss of their homes with whom Occupy Minnesota is working is growing, not only in the metro area, but statewide, according to Newby.
“In the last 30 days, it’s between 50 and 70,” Newby said.
According to its website, Occupy Minnesota is working to create social change through the use of direct democracy.
Peter Bodley is at firstname.lastname@example.org