What follows is Lilia Abbatematteo’s story about her foreclosure in her own words.
Back in December, I attended a Fannie Mae event hosted at the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. I attended this event because on September 6th 2013 my house was foreclosed on and Fannie Mae became the owner of the home I have lived in for over 40 years.
On the date of my auction, my friends and supporters from Direct Action for Rights & Equality (DARE) and the Tenant and Homeowner Association (THA) helped me protest the auction, and we informed all three potential investors who showed up that day that it would be a bad idea to buy the property because it would mean displacing residents (my family) who want to stay and get the home back. On the day of the protest, this felt like a victory, but since then, things have been really hard.
I have received letters saying that I could be evicted. The Fannie Mae event was supposed to be for people who have not yet been foreclosed on, but I decided to go anyway, to see if anyone would help me. Ever since the day of the foreclosure auction I have been worrying. What am I going to do? How can I buy my house back? What will my children be left with if we don’t have this house?
My husband and I live at 129 Chapin Avenue with our four grown children, plus our three grandchildren.
This is a house I inherited from my parents, Portuguese immigrants who came to this country and worked hard for years. My mom always worked two jobs and my father worked 12 hour days. In fact, the house was completely paid off by 1984. In 2002 I co-signed a second mortgage with my mother and her then live-in partner, to help out a troubled family member. Through the years the mortgage was transferred between various banks. It ended up with Chase Bank for a while, but my name was no longer on the loan. This was traumatizing and made it impossible to get a modification after my mother’s death. I’ve tried to resolve the issue through phone call after phone call after phone call. I’ve even paid a law firm to get help. But the bank always refused to work with me.
I’ve worked my whole life, and even when we fell behind on the mortgage, I was working. In 2008 my son-in-law decided to self-deport back to Guatemala. He made this decision because the constant stress and fear of worrying that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was going to come and take him away was too much. For this reason, my daughter and her kids moved back in with us. At the same time, in 2008 I took at 7% pay cut at work, and have not seen a pay raise in seven years. These changes combined really started to strain our budget and that’s why we fell behind on our mortgage.
My next-door neighbor (also a member of DARE and the THA) came along with me to the Fannie Mae event last week for support. We drove to Pawtucket and found a parking spot. I brought with me a letter I wrote asking that Fannie Mae look into the possibility of selling the home back to me. We walked into the brick building and went to the second floor where Fannie Mae apparently has an office – I had no idea!
It seemed like we were the first ones there, at 9 am on the dot. Someone asked us to fill out some initial paperwork, and told us someone would be with us shortly. A woman named Kate, from Fannie Mae came out and talked to us. She asked if I had ever received a “Know Your Options” package from Fannie Mae in the mail. I had not. I told her a bit of the complicated story of my house, and she said in order for Fannie Mae to investigate my case, I needed to write a narrative of all my communication with Fannie Mae and about the house, with a date, a name, and the topic of conversation when we’d talked. The trouble with this request is that I haven’t kept detailed records of all the people I’ve talked to over the past few years, especially not over the phone! I’ve made so many phone calls! In the end, I felt like Kate was trying her best to be nice to me, but I’m worried that she won’t be able to help me. When my neighbor and I left the event an hour later – we saw only one other person there!
I told my neighbor that I think the reason more people weren’t at the event is because once people think their home is up for foreclosure, it’s like the Berlin Wall goes up. It’s the end of the road. It can feel like there is no hope. Still, even though I’m skeptical that this narrative will help, I’ve done my best to write out a very detailed narrative that tells the story of my house and what’s going on with it – to the best of my ability.
Sometimes I feel like there’s no hope. My dream is that Fannie Mae will come to the table and offer me the possibility of setting up a rent-to-own scheme. My children were raised here and my grandchildren are being raised here. My granddaughter says, “I don’t want to move.” This is heart-wrenching. I like my neighborhood. From the diversity of ethnicities, to the fruit trees and grape vines planted by my father in our backyard, this home is my world. If Fannie Mae evicts us, where will we go?