A Northeast Cobb homeowner is "occupying" his foreclosed home with members of several rights groups in order to broker an agreement that will keep him in his home.
Steve Boudreaux, who lives on Rubes Landing in Marietta, is staging a 24 hour, seven day a week protest on the front lawn of his home, reminiscent of the "Occupy" protests that occur in larger cities worldwide. On Monday afternoon, Boudreaux held a press conference to explain his situation and motivations for the occupation.
Five years ago, Boudreaux walked into a Marietta Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) bank and sat down with a loan officer to discuss ways that he could achieve the American dream of home ownership. Unlike many other home buyers at the time, who were getting sub-prime mortgages, Boudreaux said he wanted to do it the right way.
"I told the loan officer, 'Keep it simple, keep it straightforward,'" Boudreaux said. "If I really can't afford to buy this house, I'll live without it."
Boudreaux was assured that the loan process would take the more traditional route, but now he is fighting an uphill battle for control of his home.
Like many Americans, Boudreaux's dream home became a nightmare as the housing bubble crashed and the recession began. In an attempt to save his home, Boudreaux applied to get a new loan to keep his head above water.
"We worked with Boudreaux for more than two years to try to help him avoid foreclosure," said Jay Lawrence, a Wells Fargo spokesperson. "He asserted that he had a loss of income, which happens in a lot of cases."
Lawrence said that Wells Fargo has helped roughly 35,000 Atlanta residents avoid foreclosure, and the rate of foreclosures in the area is declining. However, many homeowners are still battling to save their homes.
"One foreclosure is too many," Lawrence said.
In an attempt to save his home, Boudreaux and Wells Fargo entered into a loan modification program. During the lengthy process, Boudreaux said that he met every condition and faxed over every form Wells Fargo required of him immediately, even canceling several work appointments to do so. According to Boudreaux, the bank refused to modify his loan because they did not receive transcripts of his tax returns.
Boudreaux said that he had provided the bank with copies of his tax returns, a sworn statement declaring everything he had provided them was true, and the IRS had even sent the bank a letter promising the transcripts would be forthcoming.
"They refused to even consider my loan application until those transcripts were in," Boudreaux said. "They wouldn't postpone the auction one month to allow time for those papers to come in."
According to Lawrence, the home was sold in foreclosure on June 5, despite Wells Fargo's best efforts. The bank had been servicing the mortgage on behalf of a "very large investor," who now owns the property. Lawrence said that Wells Fargo is no longer connected in any way with Boudreaux's situation.
"Boudreaux may disagree with us, but he has a right to," Lawrence said. "We did our best."
Boudreaux's cause has been taken up by the Cobb United for Change Coalition (CUCC) and Occupy our Homes ATL (OOHA), rights groups that protest what they see as unfair and predatory treatment of homeowners by banks.
"We want to make Cobb County a welcoming, inviting and unifying community," said CUCC representative Rich Pellegrino.
"Let's make it clear: Housing is a right, a human right," Pellegrino continued. "All over the world it's viewed as such, why not here in the richest country on Earth?"
Boudreaux is also supported by neighbors and other civil and human rights activists, who believe their combined power can help broker a deal with Wells Fargo that will keep Boudreaux in his home.
"That support and the hope I'm getting," said Boudreaux, "makes me feel so good."