Eloise Halliburton is in a fight to save her Detroit home.
She says that Michigan First Credit Union (MFCU) wants to evict her from her condominium near Woodward Avenue in the trendy New Center section of Detroit.
The 73-year-old retired public school biology teacher believes that gentrification could be the reason.
“In my opinion, it’s not only about Blacks but older people, too,” Halliburton, who is African American, said to the Advance about the real estate industry. “They are really trying to see if they can bring in younger people.”
Halliburton moved into her unit in 2008. It sits 1,000 feet from Woodward Avenue, the city’s most prominent north-south thoroughfare. It’s a short walk from the relatively new Q-Line transit station and a three-minute drive from the renowned Detroit Institute of Arts and Wayne State University.
In 2013, she fell almost two months behind in her mortgage payment. Mortgage Center, MFCU’s real estate arm, brought an eviction case against her in 2015.
Halliburton disputed the claim and argued that MFCU failed to properly credit her payments. She said that she had not been properly noticed.
Ultimately, MFCU and Halliburton reached an agreement: The institution would lease her the home for three years and then extend an offer to option the property for $92,000.
However, Halliburton missed a November 2018 deadline to exercise the option to purchase the home. She argues that MFCU made no effort to remind her of the deadline. The credit union later returned her January 2019 mortgage payment.
Now, MFCU will only sell Halliburton the unit if she agrees to a purchase price of $200,000, according to Joe McGuire, a Michigan Legal Services attorney representing her.
The asking price would increase her monthly payment from $932 to more than $1,500 a month. After 33 years of service, Halliburton retired from Detroit Public Schools in 2001. She said she lives solely on modest retirement earnings.
A unit in the same development recently sold for $212,000 in February, more than 70 percent over its $62,000 listing price, according to Trulia.com, a real estate listing website.
The Step Forward Michigan Program , also known as the Hardest Hit Fund, is a federally funded loan initiative created in 2010 in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis, which began in 2007. It is designed to help people who are struggling with their mortgage, condo association fees, or property taxes.
People qualify if they have experienced a medical challenge, faced job loss, suffered a death in the family, entered a divorce, or have been saddled with a major out-of-pocket home repair bill. Michigan has received more than $760 million in funds for the program.
Halliburton, however, doesn’t qualify. She has made timely payments in recent years, according to McGuire. He believes that MFCU simply “waited her out” and filed another eviction case against her after the deadline passed.
“Ms. Halliburton has been a long and loyal customer and made every payment on time as required under their agreement,” McGuire said. “We value her as a member of our community. Michigan First is supposed to be a community credit union. We think that this is a move motivated by greed on their part.”
On Wednesday, more than two dozen people, some of whom are Halliburton’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) colleagues, rallied outside MFCU’s Cultural Center office. They demanded that the institution call off eviction proceeding and finance a new mortgage for Halliburton under the original terms.
Protestors also were encouraged to call the institution’s CEO and board of directors and attend the credit union’s upcoming board meeting.
A call on Thursday to Jennifer Glenfield, MFCU’s chief marketing officer, was not returned.
McGuire said this case shows the darker side of Detroit’s economic recovery.
“It’s another sad effect of what gentrification and the supposing resurgence of Detroit in certain neighborhoods can have on longtime residents,” McGuire said. “Ms. Halliburton lives in the New Center area. It’s a hot area and the question has to be: Is that area going to be a place where people like Ms. Halliburton, teachers, civil servants and working class [people] can live?”