Mass. Homeowners Rally Against Foreclosures In Massachusetts, foreclosure filings have nearly doubled over the past year. People facing foreclosure rallied at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday.

Mass. Homeowners Rally Against Foreclosures

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

One strain on the housing market is the jump on mortgage defaults and foreclosures. Thousands of homeowners across the country are losing their biggest investment because they can't afford their mortgage payments. In Massachusetts foreclosure filings have nearly doubled in the last year. Yesterday some desperate homeowners called for help from that state's governor.

NPR's Chris Arnold was there.

CHRIS ARNOLD: Charlene Dunbar(ph) showed up early at the state house in Boston yesterday. She was waiting for about 50 other protesters to come here to make a scene outside the governor's office. But right now, standing under the building's giant gold dome by herself, Dunbar looks a bit lost and worried, and with good reason.

Ms. CHARLENE DUNBAR: My house is being foreclosed on on Monday, goes up for auction. And I've been trying for over a year to renegotiate with my mortgage company the 10 percent interest rate that I have.

ARNOLD: Dunbar is a single mom with two kids, and she's 40 years old; she says she had no idea when she refinanced her house a couple of years ago that her payments would be so high. She says her loan officer lied to her about the interest rate and the big penalty it turns out she'd have to pay to refinance.

Ms. DUNNBAR: Everything that they said to me wasn't true. They told me that they'll pay insurance and taxes, that wasn't true. They told me that this would protect to my credit, that wasn't true. It ruined my credit. I can't pay any other bills.

ARNOLD: Dunbar says her mortgage payments on her $280,000 house are now $3,000 a month and adjusting higher. That's close to her whole paycheck as an administrative assistant. She's trying to get a judge to block her foreclosure. She doesn't know what to tell her kids.

Ms. DUNNBAR: What do you tell a 10-year-old and 8-year-old, that, you know, I made a big mistake almost two years ago and I'm sorry? I don't know what to tell them. I haven't slept in a month.

(Soundbite of rally)

ARNOLD: After the other homeowners show up, the housing advocate organizers guide them upstairs to the hallway outside the governor's office chanting anti-Ameriquest slogans. Ameriquest is one of the biggest subprime lenders. The protesters singled out the company because Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, before getting elected, served on Ameriquest's board of directors.

Mr. BRUCE MARKS (CEO, Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America): Governor Patrick knows subprime lending. So the governor of Massachusetts needs to set the standard for Massachusetts and for the country in stopping the foreclosures.

ARNOLD: Bruce Marks is the CEO of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, a home-ownership group. He called on the governor to declare a moratorium on all foreclosures in the state and to force lenders to adjust the terms of unaffordable loans.

Mr. MARKS: The governor needs to say to these lenders, we need you to modify those loans.

(Soundbite of applause)

ARNOLD: After a couple of hours, half the homeowners have left, but some stayed camped out in the hallway, and when Governor Patrick got back to his office, he agreed to meet with them.

(Soundbite of meeting)

ARNOLD: Governor Patrick's staff pretty quickly closed off the meeting to the press, but Patrick ended up speaking individually with each homeowner, and he convinced housing advocate Bruce Marks that he was going to do something both for the homeowners here and others around the state.

Mr. MARKS: We are thrilled. I mean, the whole idea, if we can get the governor to personally meet with the homeowners, that big things will happen.

ARNOLD: Just exactly what the governor will do is still unclear. Governor Patrick...

Gov. PATRICK: We're going to do what we can to respond. We're not quite done working through some of the details, but we - I hope we'll have something to say soon.

ARNOLD: The governor's staff took all of the homeowners' names and dates of their foreclosures. Since some of those dates are coming up in the next few days, the homeowners are hoping something happens very soon.

Chris Arnold, NPR News, Boston.

INSKEEP: To find out how the mortgage mess happened, go to npr.org.

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