$30 Million Breakthrough with Nationstar: Common Ground Receives, Accepts Credit

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In a national ground-breaking agreement, Nationstar Mortgage has agreed to give the city of Milwaukee up to $30 million over three years to provide support for mortgage restructuring as well as to contribute $500,000 over three years to the city’s home improvement loan program. (Bucks co-owner Wesley Edens is chairman of the board).

During the Fri., Aug. 28, news conference announcing the agreement, Common Ground (CG) was credited and thanked several times by Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Michael Murphy for its efforts to push for such an agreement. Nationstar’s chief customer officer, Dana Dillard, noted that it was “a first” for her company to be partnering with a city in this way. She said that the agreement puts both parties in the forefront of addressing foreclosures.

 

Dillard never mentioned CG, but Mayor Barrett acknowledged Keisha Krumm and Jennifer O’Hear by name and CG as a whole “for playing such an important role” in the efforts to bring about an agreement like this one. The mayor said that although the discussions and interactions between the city and CG have been “at times contentious,” there have been “shared eyes on the prize”—preventing foreclosures.

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Ald. Murphy said that this agreement will become a template for discussions with other mortgage servicing companies operating in the city. He said later that his goal is to raise a total of $1.5 million for the repair loan fund from servicing companies. Acknowledging the role CG has played as well as the tensions that sometimes have arisen, both Ald. Murphy and the mayor noted, “This is democracy at work.”

 

Common Ground did not participate in the city’s negotiations with Nationstar. Nonetheless, the agreement is rooted in CG actions. Near the end of 2014, we first uncovered the fact that Edens’ company owned or serviced houses in blighted Milwaukee neighborhoods. In May, we sent a delegation to Nationstar’s Dallas shareholders meeting, and Jay Bray, Nationstar CEO, first traveled to Milwaukee for meetings with city officials at our insistence.

 

When questioned by a member of the press, Keisha Krumm, CG’s lead organizer, responded that CG is “very pleased” by the agreement and “looking forward” to continued work with both Nationstar and the city to assure its full implementation. Asked whether Common Ground would now abandon its opposition to public funding for the new Bucks arena, Krumm said that CG will announce the agreement’s effect on our position on Mon., Aug. 31, when Common Council hearings about the city’s financial contributions to the arena begin.

When a reporter pressed Krumm on whether CG had “sold out” to gain the agreement, the mayor took over the microphone to express his admiration of CG’s “strong grassroots component.” He went on to say that he found the question “offensive” because it suggested that the faith-based organization would compromise its values in such a way.

After the conference, CG board member Bob Connolly noted that the organization had gained three things from the agreement and the press conference: “victory, recognition, and de-polarization.”

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