VOICE Wins Significant Housing Agreement with Bank of America
October 12th, 2012
On the evening of Monday October 1st, VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement) had a remarkably successful action to push forward mortgage relief for affected homeowners in Prince William County, VA. Following all-day, intense negotiations, last minute accommodations, and a lot of fluid politics, 800+ VOICE leaders packed St Paul United Methodist Church in Woodbridge, VA and emerged with some impressive agreements.
For the last two-years the Faith-based coalition has been organizing in order to get the mortgage lenders with the poorest records in the Prince William area to negotiate, acknowledge their role in the foreclosure crisis, and become accountable. They have asked these lenders to fund VOICE’s $300-500 million Reinvestment Proposal, which would mean more principal reduction & loan modifications – programs that help families fix their credit and get new home-loans to restore homeownership rates. VOICE has also asked them also to fund a pilot so the organization can buy and renovate vacant homes and build affordable housing in Prince William County, VA. Read the full proposal here.
After listening to testimonies from affected families, Andrew Plepler from Bank of America Corporation (BAC) announced that BAC has already done $40 million in principal reduction and loan forgiveness in the Prince William community and would continue working with struggling families who have BAC-owned loans. He made public the bank’s commitment to:
- Contribute $300,000 for non-profit housing counselors over 3 years;
- Work with VOICE to develop a credit restoration & new home loans initiative for families that lost their homes or are stuck in predatory mortgages; and
- Invest $5 million in loans to fund VOICE’s 300-unit affordable housing pilot to rehabilitate blighted properties as well as make $15 million in loans to CDFIs to incentivize community development in Prince William.
Recent press coverage:
- Interfaith community group keeps pressure on banks for mortgage help in Prince William (AP story in the Washington Post)
- Foreclosure activist group submits demands to banks (Inside Nova)
- VOICE sings Bank of America’s praises in Woodbridge (Washington Post)
- VOICE Rallies to Save Local Homeowners From Foreclosure (Manassas Patch)
VOICE is looking forward to bringing JPMorgan Chase and GE to the table. In late October VOICE will meet with Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric.
At the October 1st action, U.S. Senator Warner (D-VA), who sits on the Senate Banking Committee and Secretary Donovan who holds responsibility for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, both pledged to support VOICE’s agenda. Warner committed to:
- Work with HUD and other federal resources to support credit restoration/new home loans and to search for monies to fill $3million of the gap for 300-unit affordable housing pilot;
- Work with HUD to ensure a Distressed Asset Sale for delinquent FHA loans from Prince William so that the loans can be eligible for better mortgage modifications and principal reduction, keeping borrowers in their homes ; and
- Continue to work with VOICE to ensure productive negotiations with General Electric & JP Morgan Chase.
Secretary Donovan agreed to work to prioritize an asset sale in December 2012 and work with VOICE to find $3 million in gap-financing for their 300-unit affordable housing pilot.
Virginia Republican leaders, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, and Delegate Richard Anderson from the House Finance Committee, who have worked closely with VOICE leaders in recent months, including bringing Attorney General Cuccinelli for a tour of hard hit neighborhoods, asked that VOICE and Bank of America brief the VA House Appropriations committee on the proposal. Lingamfelter called VOICE’s organizing part of the tradition envisioned in “the American Constitution…what the founders meant when they said the people had the right to petition their government”. The delegates committed to work to get funds for our reinvestment proposal by getting a portion of the $7 million VA Housing Trust, capitalized from the National Mortgage Settlement, and requesting that Governor McDonnell include in his budget amendment monies to fund part of the gap financing for VOICE’s 300-unit neighborhood stabilization/affordable housing pilot.
Over the last two years VOICE leaders worked unceasingly to research all the foreclosures in the area and identify the subsidiaries of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and General Electric/GE Capital that were the largest lenders with the worst records in the area. VOICE leaders worked with the OMI JPIC Office and Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) to get proxy shares for the 2011 annual meeting of Bank of America to confront CEO Brian Moynihan directly. After a 100-person direct-action at General Electric’s DC office, the organization was promised a meeting with GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt. Much of this agreement is inspired by IAF’s recent victory in Milwaukee, WI of $12million from five banks to buy and renovate vacant homes and the IAF legacy of organizing share-holder actions to demand corporate responsibility.
The OMI JPIC Office warmly congratulates everyone at VOICE who has worked so hard to insure this success, and we will continue to work with the coalition to bring the banks responsible in the mortgage debacle, to the table.