Willieann Lytle of Prince George’s County has lived in the same house in Capital Heights for most of her life.
Her three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath home with the long driveway was purchased by her family when she was a baby. It was once the meeting place for her extended family; there were boisterous birthday parties, happy holiday dinners and untold numbers of other celebrations.
“There are lots of memories here,” said Lytle, 66. “It was my mom and dad and me and my brother and it was a regular happy family home. On holidays, relatives came over…We had fun here.”
Her mother and father are gone now. So is her brother. All that she has left are her memories and her home, which she has been struggling to save from foreclosure since 2011.
On Nov. 16, Lytle, a retired teacher’s assistant, will be among several homeowners from Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Howard and Montgomery counties who give testimonials about their struggles to keep their homes out of foreclosure. They will speak at a town hall meeting sponsored by the Prince George’s NAACP, which is lobbying Gov. Martin J. O’Malley to place a statewide moratorium on foreclosures.
Lytle described her experience as a two-year nightmare.
“It has been a long two years,” she said, sobbing. “You reach a point.”
The town hall meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Jericho City of Praise church, in Landover. Organizers are urging any homeowner who has previously been foreclosed on, who fears their homes may be threatened or who is having trouble in their dealings with banks, servers or mortgage companies to attend.
Organizers said homeowners will receive advice on methods they can use to save their homes. The state NAACP is currently working with more than 400 homeowners who were facing foreclosure; none have lost their home, said Carmen Johnson, the Maryland NAACP State Conference Housing Committee chair.
Johnson said contrary to popular belief, most of the homeowners who are facing foreclosure didn’t fall into dire straits because they purchased homes they could not afford. She said many of the cases she has investigated resulted from homeowners being defrauded by unscrupulous lenders or servicers.
“These homeowners don’t deserve to be treated like this,” she said. “They can afford to be in their homes. They have been bamboozled.”
The fraud takes several forms, she said. In some cases, homeowners’ payments are lost or not applied to their principles. Some get in trouble because the paperwork they have submitted in loan modifications is lost or misplaced. In other more egregious cases, she said, homeowners are victims of what she called “dual tracking.”
“The banks are foreclosing as the residents work with them on modifications,” she said. “The homeowners have no idea they still face foreclosure because they are trying to resolve the problems.”
The Prince George’s County NAACP is urging O’Malley to sign an executive order to place a moratorium on foreclosures. In a two page letter, O’Malley said he planned to continue to help residents facing foreclosure, Johnsons said. But he said that those who lose their homes “must prepare for foreclosure with dignity,” she said.
“How do you deal with losing your home with dignity, especially with this fraud, especially when it’s not your fault?” Johnson said.
She also criticized efforts by legislators to pass measures to facilitate foreclosure, instead of fighting for homeowners.
Johnson, a housing counselor and the founder of a nonprofit that helps homeowners, said town hall meetings will also be held in Baltimore and other locations around the state.
She called the foreclosure situation “scary.”
“We’ve got homeowners contacting us from Baltimore, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Charles and Howard County,” she said. “These are not Black people. Various races have signed up with the NAACP. Our NAACP is a rainbow now because of this.”
Lytle said she will continue to fight. Her home, purchased for just over $10,000 in 1938, was paid off until she borrowed heavily on it to make much-needed repairs. At more than 60 years old, she had to replace the roof and had the outside of the home resurfaced, among other changes. She was approached to borrow money to repair the home by a telemarketer.
When she attempted to modify the terms of her loan, the problems started. Now, she faces foreclosure and owes $40,000 in fees and charges that have been added to her principle. More than $20,000 she paid to lawyers and organizations that claimed to be able to help has also been lost.
She’s hoping the NAACP can help her keep her home.
“I’m determined not to give up,” Lytle said.
For more information, call Johnson at 301-322-8435.