Monique White

Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

A new loan for Monique White?

  • Article by: JENNIFER BJORHUS
  • Star Tribune
  • May 3, 2012 - 9:13 PM

Monique White's long foreclosure struggle could be nearing victory.

White said Thursday that U.S. Bank was working on paperwork for a new, reduced mortgage on the north Minneapolis house where she lives that could keep her family in their home. Separately, a Hennepin County district judge put White's eviction on hold.

White has been a hero to the local Occupy Homes movement since last fall, when demonstrators camped in and around her house. She's been a focus of numerous demonstrations, including two at the home of U.S. Bank CEO Richard Davis, and at least one petition drive.

She defaulted on her mortgage in 2009 after a car accident, then lost her job as a youth counselor at Hearthstone of Minnesota when the nonprofit shut down. She acknowledges she hasn't been making payments, and her house went through foreclosure more than a year ago.

Word that U.S. Bank was working on some kind of deal quickly spread and had supporters declaring victory, with Rep. Keith Ellison tweeting: "We just won the impossible!!!!"

However, a spokesman for U.S. Bank on Thursday did not confirm that the bank made White an offer. Spokesman Tom Joyce said U.S. Bank has given information to mortgage giant Freddie Mac, which currently owns White's house, and the ball is in that court.

"We certainly did not tell her she was getting a new loan," Joyce said. "It's entirely Freddie Mac's decision."

A spokesman for McLean, Va.-based Freddie Mac said he was trying to find out more about the situation. A Freddie Mac spokesman earlier had said the foreclosure and pending eviction were lawful.

Rebecca Schiller, a St. Paul lawyer representing Freddie Mac in White's eviction, said Thursday that she didn't know anything about the offer, calling it "a very recent development."

According to White, U.S. Bank's chief credit officer, Bill Parker, told her Thursday morning that he was working on a loan modification that would cut her old monthly mortgage payment by nearly $200 to $686.36, starting June 1. He told her he was working on the paperwork, she said, and would be back in touch in a few days.

The $686 payment is still steep, said White, a single mother of two who is clerking at a liquor store and a Family Dollar. But she said she can manage it.

"This is what I'd been hoping for," White said by cellphone. "I'm happy. I just hate that it had to come to this and be as drawn out as long as it did."

Jon Bargen, one of two Twin Cities lawyers who have been helping White for free, said he hadn't gotten the offer confirmed. If it's real and the paperwork goes through, he said he would quickly move to dismiss a lawsuit pending against U.S. Bank and Freddie Mac in federal court in Minnesota.

"I feel like this is an unprecedented victory as far as my experience goes," Bargen said. "We are a year-plus past the redemption period, so for them to now turn around and write her a new loan.... I don't know how it could have gone any better."

The lawsuit argues that White's foreclosure should be declared invalid. It alleges that U.S. Bank continually lost and failed to analyze White's applications for a loan modification, and then went through with the foreclosure sale last year after telling White it wouldn't do so if her application was submitted by the deadline.

Both U.S. Bank and Freddie Mac have filed to dismiss the case.

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683

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