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Tag: Eloise Lawrence

Eloise Lawrence named assistant clinical professor of law and deputy faculty director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

Headshot of Eloise Lawrence

via Harvard Law Today

Eloise Lawrence, a community lawyering advocate, was named assistant clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School and deputy faculty director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), effective Jan. 1.

She was previously a clinical instructor and a lecturer on law at HLS. She was also the director for community lawyering and strategic initiatives at HLAB, a student-run civil legal aid organization founded in 1913.

“I am delighted that Eloise Lawrence has joined our faculty. She played a pivotal role at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, finding novel and effective ways for lawyers and law students to work hand-in-hand with clients, community members, and community organizations to secure protections for individuals and families facing eviction and predatory practices,” said John F. Manning ’85, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean of Harvard Law School. “Eloise is a terrific lawyer, advocate, and teacher, and her skill and dedication provides our students and our community with an outstanding example of what great public interest lawyers can accomplish.”

Lawrence joined HLAB in 2011 at the height of the foreclosure crisis to work with students and community organizers to defend hundreds of families—homeowners and tenants who were losing their homes due to foreclosure. During the crisis, her cases involved predatory lending, improper foreclosure practices, discrimination, and unfair practices in the servicing of loans. She also worked with organizers to advocate for policy changes at the local, state and federal level. Since 2015, she has defended families who are being displaced from their homes and communities due to gentrification and speculation. In addition to protecting tenants in the courts, she, along with her students, works closely with community organizers to ensure tenants realize their collective power.

At HLS, Lawrence co-teaches Housing Law and Policy on a biennial basis and is a member of the HLAB teaching team for courses specifically geared towards HLAB student attorneys. She also serves as supervisor and faculty adviser for the student practice organization Project No One Leaves.

From 2008 to 2010, she served as a staff attorney in the consumer rights unit at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), where she brought affirmative suits on behalf of mortgagors against loan originators, servicers and foreclosing entities.

Earlier in her career, she worked for the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) in Boston, leading its Environmental Health and Justice Initiative using community lawyering to tackle issues such as removing lead from Boston’s drinking water, providing accessible public transportation and ensuring adequate environmental review for bio-containment labs.

Prior to working at CLF, she was a Skadden Fellow with Business and Professional People for the Public Interest in Chicago, where she represented public housing residents in civil rights class actions.

“I am deeply honored to join the HLS faculty. This position will allow me to continue to teach and work with HLS students, to serve the individuals and communities who are traditionally underrepresented by our profession as well as to collaborate with other members of the remarkable HLS faculty,” said Lawrence.

Lawrence received a B.A. in history from Stanford in 1995 and a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law in 2002, where she focused on a variety of social justice issues including juvenile justice, affordable housing and LGBTQ rights.

Harvard Law School’s ‘outstanding’ housing rights advocacy work honored by Boston Bar Association

Lisa Owens (City Life/Vida Urbana), Zoe Kronin (Greater Boston Legal Services), Maureen McDonagh (Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School), and Eloise Lawrence (Harvard Legal Aid Bureau) accept the 2019 John G. Brooks Legal Services Award on behalf of their organizations. Photo courtesy of the Boston Bar Association.

By Grace Yuh

In September, two Harvard Law School clinics and their community partner organizations were recognized by the Boston Bar Association (BBA) for their collaborative efforts to fight housing displacement in greater Boston.

WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School (LSC), Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), and City Life/Vida Urbana, received the BBA’s John G. Brooks Legal Services Award for a “creative, combined strategy of community organizing and legal defense to advocate with and for tenants and homeowners across the city.” The award, presented annually by the BBA, recognizes “professional legal services attorneys for their outstanding work on behalf of indigent clients in greater Boston.” This was the first time since its establishment that the award was received by a collective of four groups.

“These four organizations represent the very best in collaboration and commitment to finding solutions for Boston’s housing crisis,” said incoming BBA President Christine Netski, managing partner at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen. “Their innovative partnership is an excellent model for others looking to bring lawyers and community organizers together to create positive change.”

The cost of housing in greater Boston has increased significantly over the past 10 years. As more and more properties are becoming increasingly expensive, middle- and low- income individuals and families have fewer options to secure housing.

Eloise Lawrence, a community lawyering Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law at HLAB, provided insight into how the evolution of the Boston Housing crisis makes it a persistent legal issue, noting how widespread gentrification and foreclosure in the greater Boston area continues to displace community members.

“The real crisis in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis was when a lot of speculators and investors came into communities that had been devastated. They took advantage of the fact that the prices of the homes had decreased dramatically and they started buying them up, which set off yet another speculative frenzy.” she said.

Maureen McDonagh, LSC Managing Attorney and Lecturer on Law at the Housing Law Clinic, also elaborated on why this issue is more relevant than ever to the legal community.

“Over the years we’ve seen cuts to legal services. That means there are even fewer attorneys representing folks in housing courts.” said McDonagh. “For unrepresented people, finding representation is virtually impossible. To find an apartment that is affordable, safe, clean is near impossible. People who are being evicted are finding themselves more and more homeless and this includes families. That’s why I think the BBA has concentrated more on [this issue].”

Lawrence noted that the collaborative nature between the four organizations developed in part through the work of the late David Grossman, Clinical Professor, who worked at LSC before becoming the Faculty Director at HLAB. Grossman brought students from LSC and HLAB into the anti-foreclosure movement that GBLS and City Life/Vida Urbana were already participating in. Since then, the partnership between all four organizations has expanded and grown. A hallmark of the partnership between these four organizations, the Sword and Shield method relies on the concerted and joint effort of local and legal communities; and focuses on empowering and encouraging individuals to stand up for their rights.

“The Shield is legal defense and the Sword is public protest and public pressure.” explained Steve Meacham, Organizing Coordinator at City Life/Vida Urbana. “There are procedures of the law that we can take advantage of and … legal proceedings allow the public pressure to then really work.”

City Life/Vida Urbana, whose primary mission is fighting against forced displacement, represents the “sword” through work such as organizing tenant associations and doing eviction blockades. HLS students and attorneys from LSC and GBLS complete the “shield” of the Sword and Shield method by providing legal services and advice. This can range from partial to full representation in court, with the City Life/Vida Urbana meetings in both Jamaica Plain and East Boston providing a space in which law students and attorneys can meet with individuals or client unions looking for legal aid. Additionally, GBLS, LSC, and HLAB participate in the “Lawyer for the Day” program, in conjunction with the BBA and Volunteer Lawyers Project.

“We go to housing court to help people who are being evicted that day, who don’t have a lawyer. We pick up cases right there.” said McDonagh on the program, which has assisted more than 18,000 individuals since 1999.

Outside of the direct services that the four organizations provide, they also convene for monthly Sword and Shield meetings that provide a space for lawyers and organizers to discuss and reflect on issues regarding partnership and individual work. Lawrence explained how these meetings are a good opportunity for organizers and lawyers to connect beyond shared clients.

“I think there’s huge synergy that happens when organizers and lawyers work together. I view it as part of my job to teach law students, especially those that have never worked with organizers before, to understand where the role of lawyer and organizer overlap and where they are distinct. I think that [to be] a good lawyer or an organizer, you need to be an empathetic human, you need to listen and learn. It sounds simple but it often gets overlooked in legal education.” she said.

Additionally, Meacham emphasized the strengths of community lawyering in a movement like the anti-foreclosure movement, where it is important to empower the collective of those in need of help.

“It’s been a privilege to work with all of them.” Meacham said, “In addition to being on the right side of cases about tenants, they are very skilled community lawyers, which is why they’re here taking short consultations. They understand that they’re representing collectively the movement … in terms of their practice outside of the client-attorney relationship, they’re practicing community lawyering so they’re looking at cases that will help a movement.” he said.

McDonagh also emphasized the nature of the collaboration between the four organizations and their relationship with the greater Boston community. “We are honored to be recognized for our efforts but the people who are the real heroes are the ordinary individuals standing up for their rights.” she said.

GBLS Executive Director Jacquelynne J. Bowman says receiving the Brooks Legal Services Award is a wonderful recognition of what impactful, collaborative advocacy can really look like.

“Greater Boston Legal Services is greatly honored to have been chosen by the Boston Bar Association as a co-recipient of the 2019 John G. Brooks Legal Services Award”, she said.  “This is a testament to the impactful advocacy efforts of our Housing Unit advocates and partners at the Harvard Legal Assistance Bureau, WilmerHale Legal Services Center, and City Life/Vida Urbana to help low-income families avoid or delay their displacement from increasingly unaffordable neighborhoods.”

Lawrence echoed this sentiment, noting the implications for how the legal community might best approach large-scale socio-economic issues in the future.

“It’s a recognition … that effective advocacy happens when people work together, especially when lawyers and non-lawyers work together.” Lawrence said. “When you’re dealing with complex problems like lack of affordable housing and the displacement of people from their homes, lawyers are never going to do this alone. The recognition from the legal community, which the BBA [represents], shows a more complex understanding of how problems are going to be addressed and that’s wonderful.”

 

 

Tenants Pushed Out as Developers Buy Single-Room-Occupancy Properties

Via WGBH Radio

Source: John Tlumacki

DAVID GREENE, HOST: In many American cities, the cheapest rental housing is single room occupancy, or SRO units or rooming houses. These are tiny rooms with no kitchens and shared bathrooms out in the hallway. As investors buy up SRO properties in urban neighborhoods, several cities have seen low-income tenants pushed out. Chris Burrell from WGBH’s New England Center for Investigative Reporting found such renters are struggling to hold on.

RICHARD: Don’t be shy (ph). Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go. Good girl.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAT MEOWING)

CHRIS BURRELL, BYLINE: That’s Richard, a 62-year-old tenant in an SRO north of Boston. As he opens the door to his room, he makes sure his cat doesn’t dash into the hallway. NPR’s not using his full name because he is fearful of reprisals from his landlord for talking to the media.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAT MEOWING)

RICHARD: Her prior owner was a heroin addict who had OD’d. And if I have to move out, who’s going to take care of her?

BURRELL: He’s worried because the 72-unit SRO, where he lives in a windowless room, was sold last year for $2.2 million. Since then, the owner has sent eviction notices to 20 tenants; in April came notice of rent hikes. For tenants like Richard, it’s a 27% increase, from $550 to $700 a month.

Nationally, housing advocates say SROs are vital unsubsidized shelter for the poor, low-wage workers, the elderly and people with mental illness or drug addiction. SROs don’t have a great reputation. Considered substandard housing, cities in the last 50 years eliminated hundreds of thousands of rooms in the name of urban renewal.

NAN ROMAN: There’s no question that the loss of a lot of these units is a major contributor to homelessness in places where they existed.

BURRELL: That’s Nan Roman, the head of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. She says SROs, once seen as blight, are now viewed as one solution to homelessness. Several cities – Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. – are trying to preserve SROs before owners convert them to higher-end housing.

Back in Massachusetts, Richard has lived in this tiny SRO room for three years, surviving on a $700-a-month disability check. His hands tremble as he shows me the ceiling fan dangling from thin wires. He and three other tenants share a bathroom with cracked floor tiles and decayed caulking around the tub. As bad as it is here, Richard wants to stay put.

RICHARD: One of the big problems for most people in the building is, where are we going to go? We can’t afford the rent anymore, and you’re talking about elderly, disabled people.

BURRELL: He’s not alone. In San Diego, city officials last spring were helping nearly 200 people relocate after a large SRO closed. In Boston, housing advocates see a similar pattern. Eloise Lawrence is an attorney at Harvard Law School’s legal clinic, defending SRO tenants against eviction.

ELOISE LAWRENCE: People are being thrown out. That’s happening across the city because these properties now are so valued. What was considered sort of housing at the last resort is now seen as desirable and profitable.

BURRELL: But developers say running rooming houses is hard, and when the economy is booming like it is now, there may be easier options, like converting to condos. Alan Hope ran two rooming houses north of Boston.

ALAN HOPE: It’s very difficult, I think, if you’re not a professional, in maintaining a rooming house to the standard that’s required. Real estate, in general, is becoming more higher-priced, valuable. So investors are trying to get the most they can out of it. Maybe having other form of more stable type of tenants, tenants that are probably living – earning a living, and they’re not depending on subsidies.

BURRELL: Housing experts say demand for such SRO-type housing is increasing as the number of single households in America who are renters has grown to 16 million in the last decade, and many of them are facing rent levels that eat up at least a third or half their income. Building new SRO housing is one response. Places like New York and Portland, Maine, are looking at proposals to do just that.

For NPR News, I’m Chris Burrell.

Real Estate Boom Threatens Rooming Houses At The Bottom Of The Housing Market

Via WGHB

By: Chris Burrell

Source: iStock

A hot real estate market in Boston and surrounding cities is fueling rent hikes and evictions in what has long been one of the cheapest housing options in poor neighborhoods — rooming houses.

Housing advocates say rooming houses — also known as SROs, meaning ‘single room occupancy’ — are a vital source of affordable shelter for minimum-wage workers, the elderly and people with disabilities or mental illness. But as urban real estate values surge, some investors and property owners are raising rents, evicting tenants and trying to shift away from low-income residents.

“People are being thrown out, and that’s happening across the city, because these properties are now so valued,” said Eloise Lawrence, an attorney at Harvard Law School’s Legal Aid Bureau who has defended tenants. “What was once considered housing at the last resort is now seen as desired and profitable.”

It’s not clear whether the number of rooming houses in the Boston area has declined over time, because city agencies don’t keep accurate historical records of such properties, but the New England Center for Investigative Reporting found many cases of rooming houses being sold and tenants displaced or under threat of eviction.

Read the full story here.

Community Lawyering for Change

Via Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

L-R: Andres (community organizer); Nan McGarry J.D. ’17; Natalia (client); Pedro Spivakovsky-Gonzalez J.D. ’17; and Stanford Fraser, J.D. ’16

In a cramped church basement in East Boston, people gather together for a common purpose: to stay in their homes. East Boston is ground zero for no-fault evictions brought by investors seeking to increase rents and profit off of increased housing demand in the Greater Boston area. At their core, no-fault evictions are evictions where the tenant has done nothing wrong—hence the name “no-fault”. A tenant can have paid rent on time and abided by his or her lease regulations for decades and still be thrown out for no reason other than the whims of an investor landlord. Despite these evictions, a group gathers and organizes to fight back against the displacement.

City Life/Vida Urbana (CLVU) is a community organization focused on supporting homeowners and tenants who have been hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis and now the displacement crisis. The model that CLVU and Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) attorneys have developed together is called “the Sword and Shield.” The sword is composed of CLVU protests, rallies, eviction blockades, and other activist measures to fight back against evictions and displacement. The shield is composed of community legal services, including HLAB. Along with Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) and others, HLAB has worked with CLVU to represent tenants facing evictions in Boston Housing Court. Another Harvard Law student organization, Project No One Leaves, supports the work of HLAB and CLVU by canvassing homes facing foreclosure and buildings investors have purchased where tenants may be at risk of facing no-fault evictions. These canvassing efforts bring in potential members to CLVU, strengthening both the sword and the shield. In the basement of the East Boston church where CLVU meets, a group of tenants came to seek legal help and their case became a rallying point and exemplar of the fight against displacement throughout Boston.

The Bennington Street building is a three story mixed use building, with a nail salon on the first floor and four residential units on the second and third floors. The tenants of the four residential units had been living in their apartments for various lengths of time, from several years to up to twenty years. Several of the tenants have families, including small children.

These families had been paying their rent on time, but one day the owner of the building sold it to an investor landlord who wanted to double it. Five days after purchasing the building, the new landlord sent all the tenants No-Fault Notices to Quit, saying they had to leave the premises or face legal action. The tenants’ landlord offered them an impossible choice: $500 to leave their homes of many years or a doubling of their rent. This is a common extrajudicial tactic amongst investors in East Boston, in part because it is much cheaper to pay off tenants with the threat of a rent increase than to go through the court system. Oftentimes the threat of legal action also makes some tenants decide to leave their homes, because they are unaware of their legal rights and do not realize that the courts could rule in their favor. Instead of accepting this offer, the Bennington tenants came to CLVU looking for help in their fight against losing their home.

HLAB member and President Pedro Spivakovsky-Gonzalez was the first student attorney on the Bennington Street cases, in August of 2015, although the team eventually expanded to include Nan McGarry, Jack Solano, and Stanford Fraser in January in anticipation of four possible jury trials. The case came to HLAB as four separate cases, one for each apartment in the building. HLAB entered into a joint representation agreement with the tenants, meaning that while we still would represent each household in their individual eviction case, we would also represent them as a group. The significance of this was that for months client counseling and negotiations with the landlord’s attorney involved a great deal of communication with the residents of each apartment regarding their individual cases, but also clear communication about the impacts of each decision on the group as a whole.

Although the landlord’s attorney attempted to consolidate the four cases, Pedro successfully opposed the motion in October, thus allowing all of the Bennington tenants their opportunity to be heard in court in front of a jury. Negotiations with the landlord’s attorney continued, and HLAB requested an inspection of the building, which revealed a number of conditions of disrepair. Although the tenants had been paying their rent for years, there were important repairs that still needed to be made for the landlord to be compliant with Massachusetts housing law. Through the course of representation, the landlord started to make some repairs to the building. Months of motions in court to compel discovery, among others, and months of settlement discussions, exchanging offers and counteroffers, led up to the scheduling of jury trials in February.

In fact, four jury trials had been scheduled, forcing Pedro, Nan, Jack, and Stanford to prepare as if all four trials were going to happen. Substantial HLAB resources were dedicated to this trial preparation, as the Bennington cases together involved eleven witnesses, including two expert witnesses. The whole team engaged in rigorous trial preparation, including preparing motions for the inclusion and exclusion of evidence, putting together several evidence binders, and preparing direct and cross examinations of witnesses. Throughout all of this work, the trial team also maintained communication with CLVU and GBLS.

The Bennington cases provide a glimpse at the type of cross-coordination work common in community lawyering. The tenants often attended CLVU meetings, where tenants from many other households gathered to share their own stories, many very similar: landlords purchasing properties, not making any repairs, and then seeking to evict tenants that had been paying their rent. HLAB student attorneys attended these weekly community meetings in East Boston, and also consulted with CLVU organizers and GBLS attorneys about litigation and settlement strategy.

As the Community Lawyering Clinical Instructor and a Lecturer on Law at HLAB, Eloise Lawrence supervised the student attorneys and provided guidance in critical moments of the process. Lawrence leads HLAB’s community lawyering efforts, following in the footsteps of the late David Grossman, who helped to pioneer community lawyering. Lawrence’s experience as a community lawyer in Lynn, where she still takes cases, continues to inform HLAB’s work in this area.

After all of the trial preparation and coordination with CLVU, the day of the first Bennington trial came on February 1. The trial would end up lasting four days and involving multiple witnesses, several of whom needed translators. Before the trial even began, key testimony and reports from the Boston Public Health Commission about the nail salon in the first floor of the building, were excluded from the trial, even though they showed noxious fumes from the nail salon endangering the health of the Bennington tenants. Nevertheless, the first trial team of Pedro and Nan, with the support of Eloise Lawrence fought through this exclusion of evidence and other challenges throughout the trial.

In one particularly memorable moment from the trial, Nan cross-examined the landlord about a back fence that had been padlocked. Under the law, every residential building over a certain number of units needs two ways to enter and exit the building, in part for fire safety reasons. This back fence, being padlocked, made it impossible to leave out the back of the building. In her cross-examination, McGarry asked specifically how the family would escape. The landlord responded, “What do you mean, if there was a fire? They could jump over the fence.”  In her closing argument, McGarry returned to this picture of a family, including a 67-year-old grandmother and a small child, trying to jump over a fence as their home burns. In the words of Eloise Lawrence, “You could feel the jury listen to every word and identify with our clients. If you didn’t know better, you would have thought Nan was a very experienced litigator, not that it was her first trial.”

Pedro and Nan won that first trial, with the jury returning a verdict in favor of the tenants on all counts, including attorney’s fees for HLAB. After winning the first trial, the team was able to successfully negotiate a settlement for all cases—including the other three cases that would have otherwise gone to trial—that included new long-term leases at affordable rents and landlord responsibility for repairs and maintenance to the units. As a result of these settlements, all the residents of this Bennington Street building will be able to stay in a home, with repairs being made by the landlord.

While not all cases have such a happy ending, the Bennington Street cases represent a window into how community lawyering can achieve individual results that are tied into a larger movement.

The tenants now have affordable and habitable apartments, while landlords in Boston understand that tenants will stand up for their rights. They will fight, with the help of organizations like City Life/Vida Urbana and the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, and they will win.

Congratulations to Eloise, Julia, and Toby on their promotions

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs extends heartfelt congratulations to Eloise Lawrence (Harvard Legal Aid Bureau), Julia Devanthéry (Housing Law Clinic), and Toby Merrill (Project on Student Predatory Lending) on their recent promotions to the position of Clinical Instructor.

Eloise Lawrence, Clinical Instructor, Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

Eloise Lawrence, Clinical Instructor,
Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

Eloise Lawrence has served as a staff attorney at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau for over three years representing tenants and homeowners in post-foreclosure evictions and working closely with community organizers as part of Project No One Leaves. Previously, she was a staff attorney in the Consumer Rights Unit of Greater Boston Legal Services where she brought affirmative suits on behalf of mortgagors against loan originators, servicers and foreclosing entities. Prior to the foreclosure crisis, she was an attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, and started her legal career as a Skadden Fellow in Chicago representing public housing residents in civil rights class actions. Eloise received a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law in 2002 and a B.A. from Stanford University in 1995.

Julia Devanthéry, Clinical Instructor, Housing Law Clinic (LSC)

Julia Devanthéry, Clinical Instructor,
Housing Law Clinic (LSC)

Julia Devanthéry joined the Legal Services Center as Staff Attorney for the Mattapan Initiative in 2013. She now co-teaches and supervises students enrolled in the Housing Law Clinic. She also maintains a caseload of post-foreclosure, private housing, and subsidized housing eviction cases, and practices primarily in the Boston Housing Court. Previously, Julia was the Manager of Legal Advocacy at HomeStart, Inc. where she represented low-income tenants on the verge of homelessness. Prior to working at HomeStart, she was clinical law fellow at Northeastern University School of Law’s Domestic Violence Institute.

Toby Merrill

Toby Merrill, Clinical Instructor and
Lecturer on Law, Project on Predatory
Student Lending (LSC)

Toby Merrill founded and directs the Project on Predatory Student Lending, which represents low-income student loan borrowers in predatory lending cases against for-profit and occupational schools and related entities. Toby twice represented legal aid providers and their clients in the US Department of Education’s negotiated rulemaking sessions, by which the Department promulgates new student loan regulations, and is a member of the advisory council on Private Occupational Schools to the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure. Toby joined the Legal Services Center’s Predatory Lending Practice in 2012 as a Skadden Fellow, after clerking for the Honorable Janet C. Hall of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut.

Our office wishes them success in their next endeavors!

New Policy Goes Only Partway in Helping Struggling Homeowners

Via the New York Times

Well, that was fast. At a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Nov. 19, Melvin Watt, the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, was in the hot seat, explaining to Senator Elizabeth Warren why Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had done so little to help families who were facing foreclosure save their homes….

Housing advocates like Eloise Lawrence, a staff lawyer with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, have an answer. Although expressing disappointment about the limited nature of the directive, Ms. Lawrence described it as “a positive move in the right direction.” She also noted that the bureau has four families who would directly benefit.

Those clients include Ramon and Rosanna Suero. As described in a DealBook column in June, the Sueros purchased a condominium in Dorchester, Mass., in 2005 for $283,000, using a combination of two high-risk mortgages. They lost the condo in a foreclosure sale in 2010. The nonprofit group Boston Community Capital has offered to purchase the condo from Freddie Mac for the fair market value of $115,000. The group hopes to sell it back to the Sueros, financed with a more affordable fixed-rate mortgage.

Freddie refused Boston Community Capital’s offer, saying that only the full balance on the loan was acceptable because the home would be returned to its owners. Under Freddie’s policy, anyone other than the Sueros could buy at the lower market value.

So in 2013, the Sueros, who are jointly represent by Andrea Park of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and Nicole Summers of the Northeast Justice Center, sued Freddie Mac. The court has ordered that pending the outcome of the case, the family cannot be evicted and the condo cannot be sold. Their condo is one of the properties in Freddie’s inventory that is subject to the new directive.

We wonder, then, will the Sueros have their home back for the holidays? It’s too soon to tell. Stefanie Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, responded via email that the agency “does not comment on pending litigation.” She added that “individuals can apply” under the new policy and that “this will be addressed” by Freddie Mac and Boston Community Capital.

Continue reading the full story here.

Boston Globe highlights the questionable foreclosure practices of many banks in Massachusetts

Via The Boston Globe:

Some homeowners who say they were not treated fairly during the foreclosure process are going to court and — increasingly — winning rulings that force lenders to reverse completed property seizures.

Eloise Lawrence, an attorney at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau in Cambridge, said she has helped more than two dozen homeowners overturn their foreclosures in Lynn alone based on problems with right-to-cure notices.

Lawrence said it is especially important that lenders follow the letter of the law in Massachusetts, a state where foreclosures do not go before a judge for final review.

“The bank can take your house without ever going to court, and so properly notifying homeowners of their rights is a critical safeguard against wrongful foreclosures,” she said.

In the News: HLAB’s Eloise Lawrence

Harvard Legal Aid Bureau‘s Eloise Lawrence reflects on the drop in foreclosure eviction cases in a recent Boston Business Journal article.