BROCKTON – After Ramon and Deborah Sepulveda purchased their home from South Shore Habitat for Humanity in 1999, they refinanced their mortgage to get money for repairs.
“It was a bit of a rough area,” Deborah Sepulveda said. “The house had bullet holes when we moved in. The siding we bought helped with heating costs and covered up the holes.”
Over the next 15 years, the Sepulvedas, both school bus drivers, bought their two-family home’s second apartment at 19 Brides Ct. and saw their three kids raise six of their own children.
Like dozens of other Brockton homeowners who face or have gone through foreclosure in recent years, the Sepulvedas eventually fell behind on their mortgage payments.
Ramon Sepulveda, a city activist who has pushed for better parks and safer neighborhoods, found himself fighting for his own cause.
The family’s home was scheduled for a foreclosure auction this Friday by mortgage-holder U.S. Bank National Association and service provider Nationstar Mortgage.
But Sepulveda said his efforts working with a Boston nonprofit that purchases distressed homes and sells them back to the homeowner at lower costs have paid off in the form of a six-week delay in the auction.
“We’re still fighting,” Sepulveda said. “I definitely want to keep my home.”
The Sepulveda’s fight is a familiar one in Brockton.
Recent housing data shows that Brockton continues to lag behind the rest of the state with the highest rate of distressed properties, even as Massachusetts recovers from the mortgage crisis that struck the nation in 2008.
A report issued by the nonprofit Massachusetts Housing Partnership in April showed that 13.4 percent of every 1,000 housing units in Brockton are distressed.
A property is considered distressed if a foreclosure petition has been filed or an auction scheduled in the previous year, or if it has been bank-owned for up to two years.
While Brockton’s distressed property rate decreased significantly from the 27.9 percent per 1,000 housing units that it was last year, it is still three times higher than the state average of 4.4 percent.
The Sepulvedas and dozens of other Brockton residents have sought help through the nonprofit Boston Community Capital. In 2009, it launched Stabilizing Urban Neighborhoods, a program that keeps people in their homes by purchasing mortgages and reselling them back to their current occupants at rates they can afford.
Sepulveda said he met with Boston Community Capital representatives on Wednesday and is in the process of applying for the program.
Peter Guaetta, a Chelmsford attorney who represents the Sepulveda’s mortgage holder, said he could not comment on the Sepulveda’s situation. He referred questions to the general counsel for Nationstar Mortgage, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The Sepulveda’s have $78,000 left on their mortgage. They bought one half of the home from South Shore Habitat for Humanity for approximately $53,000 in 1999. Four years later, they purchased the second apartment for $30,000.
They also put $25,000 in renovations into the home through refinancing, Ramon Sepulveda said. After both purchases and the refinancing, the family was paying $900 per month for the home.
Bank of America bought the mortgage in 2010, and despite promises to keep costs the same, raised the monthly mortgage payment to $2,000, Sepulveda said.
Around the same time, Sepulveda became very sick. He collapsed from a heart condition in 2009 and was flown by helicopter to a Boston hospital.
“My whole heart exploded,” Sepulveda said.
His doctor said Sepulveda could not work and he went on Social Security disability payments. Leaning on his $600 per month payments and Deborah Sepulveda’s bus driver salary, the family fell behind on their mortgage.
The situation had worsened when Bank of America raised their monthly costs, Sepulveda said, and then for about two years he was denied disability payments. He appealed and later regained his Social Security income, but the financial damage was done.
“That’s the part that killed me,” Sepulveda said. “I had so many bills and not enough to pay for the house.”
Staff writer Edward Donga contributed to this report. Joseph Markman may be reached at [email protected].