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On Monday, the Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment and activists from the group Moms 4 Housing staged a press conference outside the home of an East Oakland family facing eviction after their house was foreclosed on and sold to two real estate investment companies that now want them out.
Fred Ubili bought the Brookdale Avenue bungalow in 2006 and lives there with his wife and three young children. He said he unknowingly took out a “predatory loan” a few years ago. After he fell behind on the payments, the lender, a local company with a controversial history, foreclosed and sold the house to new owners who are trying to evict the Ubilis, say lawyers for the family. The eviction lawsuit is scheduled for trial in Alameda County Superior Court later this week.
Although there are local and statewide moratoriums on evictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ubilis are not covered by these protections because they are not renters. A judge will decide whether this case can go forward, said Jackie Zaneri, a lawyer with ACCE, which is representing the Ubilis. Zaneri told The Oaklandside that this case could be the first foreclosure eviction in Alameda County since the pandemic began, and it could set a precedent, determining whether other homeowners who have also fallen behind on mortgage payments can be evicted after they’re foreclosed on.
Ubili and his supporters say the family won’t leave the property until it’s sold back to them or to a land trust. Recently, the Moms 4 Housing activists, who took over a West Oakland home owned by investors last year to draw attention to the homelessness crisis, got involved in Ubili’s case. At the Monday morning event, around two dozen supporters gathered to cheer Ubili on, chanting and raising their fists.
“This is my home—I don’t have another place,” Ubili told The Oaklandside after the press conference.
Ubili said he’s a private person, so it wasn’t easy to decide to draw public attention to his family’s situation, and it’s “painful” to talk about what they’re going through. But, he said, “I’ve tried everything possible and I just want my house back.”
Ubili said that around 2016 he took out a loan from the Oakland-based lender Community Fund LLC, which also took over his mortgage. The ACCE attorneys who are representing Ubili say they think the loan included terms that caused his payments to rapidly increase beyond what he could afford. Community Fund foreclosed on the property and then sold it in an auction to two other companies at the beginning of 2020: Shu Jackson LLC and MP Enterprises LLC.
Zaneri said the chain of events is not entirely clear, and little is known about the new owners of the property. (Eviction records are also sealed to protect the resident’s privacy, so The Oaklandside hasn’t been able to independently verify all the details of the court case.)
The Oaklandside tried to identify and contact the owners of these companies but was unable to. We will update this story if we learn new information.
“Fred doesn’t have all the documents,” Zaneri said. “As far as we know, there was some kind of loan; he thought he was retaining ownership and what ended up happening was them foreclosing on the property.”
Ubili said he tried to work something out with Community Fund before the foreclosure, but didn’t hear back. Shu Jackson and MP Enterprises subsequently bought the house and filed an eviction lawsuit in early March, and a couple weeks ago they got a date set for the trial.
Jessica Marr, Community Fund’s property manager, told The Oaklandside on Monday that the Brookdale Avenue address didn’t ring any bells. She said she wasn’t aware of the company Shu Jackson, or of the court case involving the Ubilis’ house. Marr said she’d look into the case.
The CEO of Community Fund, Michael Marr, was recently released from federal prison, where he served a 30-month sentence for conspiring with other real estate investors to rig bids at foreclosure auctions. Marr’s company Community Realty is one of the largest property owners in Oakland.
Speaking at the press conference, Dominique Walker said Ubili’s case is an example of a wider problem affecting working-class and Black communities. Walker was one of the homeless mothers who occupied a vacant, investor-owned house in West Oakland last fall, protesting for months until the owner agreed to sell the building to a land trust. She said activists would be willing to do the same to keep the Ubilis in their home.
If the owners refuse to sell the property back to Ubili or to a land trust, “we’re going to stay here,” Walker said. “Just like that night at Moms’ home, where hundreds of people showed up, we’re prepared to do the same thing.”
Carroll Fife, ACCE’s Oakland director and Moms4Housing leader, stopped by the Brookdale house after the press conference and echoed Walker, saying advocates would protest the eviction “by any means necessary.” She said ACCE is rallying behind the Ubilis because “I believe we’re on the precipice of a lot more foreclosure evictions.”
A trial for the eviction lawsuit is currently set for Thursday, though ACCE says the date may change.