BROCKTON – Five years ago, Ramon Sepulveda collapsed with a bad heart and was flown to a hospital in Boston.
Sepulveda, a former school bus driver and city activist, ended up on disability. Shortly afterward, the bank that held the mortgage of his Habitat for Humanity home more than doubled his monthly payments to $2,000.
His wife Deborah was eventually laid off from her job as a bus driver and the couple has been battling to keep their two-family home on Brides Court ever since.They kept sending in the $900 a month they had previously paid and began reaching out – to friends, to fellow activists, to non-profit organizations and this year to the state attorney general’s office.
A few weeks ago, the Sepulvedas’ efforts paid off. Nationstar Mortgage granted the couple a preliminary modification on their home loan, allowing them to avoid foreclosure.“Hallelujah,” Ramon Sepulveda said. “Thank God. I’m just so grateful.”The Sepulvedas are among dozens of Brockton families fighting foreclosure and eviction.
The city, rocked harder than most communities by the mortgage crisis that struck nationwide in 2008, lags behind as the rest of the state recovers.A report issued in April by the nonprofit Massachusetts Housing Partnership showed that 134 of every 1,000 housing units in Brockton face foreclosure or eviction by a bank.
While Brockton’s distressed property rate decreased significantly from the 279 per 1,000 housing units that it was last year, it is still three times higher than the state average of 44 per 1,000.After Ramon and Deborah Sepulveda purchased their home from South Shore Habitat for Humanity in 1999, they refinanced thei
r mortgage to get money for repairs.The family’s home was scheduled for a foreclosure auction this July by mortgage-holder U.S. Bank National Association and service provider Nationstar Mortgage. Ramon Sepulveda worked at first with the nonprofit Boston Community Capital, which has a program that keeps people in their homes by purchasing mortgages and reselling them back to their current occupants at rates they can afford.
Instead, Nationstar came through with a modification after being pressured by, among other groups, City Life Vida Urbana, a Boston nonprofit that provides legal advice and helps homeowners protest foreclosure, Sepulveda said.“He’s had a remarkable success,” said Steve Meacham, an organizer with City Life Vida Urbana. “The slogan on our shield is: “No One Leaves.”“You should just hang on and all kinds of things become possible without moving,” Meacham said.
Starting in October, for a three-month trial period, the Sepulvedas will pay $1,100 per month rather than $2,000. Their interest rate drops from 9 percent to 2 percent.If all goes well, the modification will be made permanent and the Sepulvedas will live in their home for years. Sepulveda, invigorated by his successful battle, has a message for residents in a similar situation. “Don’t despair,” he said. “Continue fighting. Sooner or later you will win.”
Joseph Markman may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.