June 20, 2024

by | Aug 19, 2022 3:25 pm
(12) Comments | Post a Comment | E-mail the Author
Posted to: Dixwell, Housing
Laura Glesby photos
Alan Tilley: fighting to keep his house in memory of his mother.
Laura Glesby Photos
The house at 766 Orchard.
Two decades after his family bought a church-built house meant to stabilize a neighborhood, Alan Tilley is fighting to keep the home out of the hands of out-of-town landlords.

Tilley, a social worker and Navy veteran, is fending off the foreclosure of the 766 Orchard St. property home where he has lived for twenty years — a home that still technically belongs to his mother, Edythe, who died in 2014.
It is one of a row of homes built on Orchard between Munson and Henry by a nonprofit associated with Beulah Heights Pentecostal Church to stabilize a once-troubled block in order to promote homeownership over real estate speculation.
Families like Tilley’s bought the homes with a requirement that the properties remain in owner-occupied hands for at least 20 years.
Now, that 20-year requirement has elapsed — and Tilley is facing the possibility of losing his home to a large investor.

Tilley continued to pay his mother’s Wells Fargo mortgage for years, until, during a tough financial period, he could no longer keep up with the bills. He now owes the bank over $68,000; a week ago, he filed for bankruptcy.

Tilley found assistance in paying for food and utilities. But having never secured official ownership of the home, he has no access to the resources typically available to veterans and other homeowners struggling to keep their houses.
The housing court prevented him from entering a mediation with the mortgage company because he’s legally the administrator,” not the owner, of his late mother’s estate and her debt. Before he can remedy the house’s financial situation, he has to undergo the probate court process and establish an official claim to the property.

For Black families like Tilley’s, the generational wealth that homeownership initially promises has a disproportionate chance of disappearing. The house once symbolized a new era of homeownership at the crossroads of two majority-Black neighborhoods, an area saturated with rentals. Since Wells Fargo filed the foreclosure in 2020, Tilley said, he has received countless letters and phone calls from out-of-city and out-of-state investors seeking to purchase the property. He finds the inquiries offensive.

His mother stars in all of Tilley’s favorite recollections of the house. He loved coming home and simply talking to her; she would give him even-handed advice which he always followed. She spent more and more of her life inside that house as her lung disease increasingly prevented her from leaving. Tilley is fighting for his own housing, but he’s also fighting on behalf of his mother: for the memory of her,” he said.

The house at 766 Orchard was one of several homes built by Beulah Land Development Corporation, the nonprofit affiliated with the Beulah Heights Pentecostal Church down the block, in the early 2000s. It’s a near-copy of the other white-shingled Beulah homes on the block, except for its vibrant red porch. Many houses on that Orchard Street block had become selling and using hubs for crack cocaine in the 90s; the block was haunted by the 1994 murder of a 7‑month-old baby, Danielle Taft, down the street.
In the wake of Danielle’s death, Beulah leader Pastor Theodore Brooks set out to revive the block by creating affordable homeownership opportunities. Through its newly-established development corporation, Beulah rebuilt 20 homes in the area with 20-year owner-occupancy requirements — meaning that whoever owned the house after Beulah had to live there for the next two decades.
The homeownership program has been a stable program that works extremely well,” reflected Darrell Brooks, who has since taken the helm of the development corporation from his father. Through Beulah’s development, there are a number of homeowners who have created an opportunity to build sustainable wealth.”

Edythe Tilley had lived on Orchard Street for years by the time she learned from a friend about the Beulah homeownership opportunity. She had lived for a time in her mother’s Orchard Street house, then moved to a rental apartment near Saint Raphael’s hospital. She never lived in a home with her own name on the deed until she bought the Beulah house in 2002.
It didn’t take long for Alan, the youngest child, to move in with his mother.
Me and my mom, we’ve been through thick and thin,” he said. I left the nest, but I was always there.” Whenever he visited his mom, he would open her refrigerator to make sure it wasn’t too empty, check on her bills to make sure they were fully paid. He worried about her and didn’t want her to end up in a nursing home. In 2003, when he was 49 years old, Tilley moved into the house.
Edythe was a hair stylist who loved live music and couldn’t stop smoking cigarettes. She was a spiritual woman who wasn’t too big on going to church,” as the younger Tilley put it. My mom was cool-natured, mild mannered. She spoke her mind. She would tell me what she thought was right, and I would heed her.”
The pair formed a tradition of going to Lynon’s Restaurant & Bar on State Street every Saturday night, when the restaurant would feature live bands. She couldn’t dance much, but she was dancing in her chair,” Tilley recalled of his mom.
Edythe’s lung disease progressed from walking pneumonia to bronchitis to COPD, and she found herself more and more home-bound. After a number of visits to the hospital, she found herself in the intensive care unit, unable to talk. She couldn’t communicate about the fate of her house and belongings; Tilley’s largest regret is not asking her sooner. 

After Edythe died, the deadlines to file probate court claims passed by Alan Tilley as he grieved. The one paralegal he spoke to about the matter seemed insensitive, he said, and he never returned. Tilley’s lack of official claim to the house did not affect his ability to reside there until Wells Fargo filed the foreclosure in June of 2020.
Darrell Brooks of Beulah Land Development Corporation said that he hadn’t heard about the foreclosure at 766 Orchard, and that he’s interested in helping Tilley retain his house.
In the African-American community, we lose opportunities to be able to pass properties on because of foreclosures like this,” Brooks said. Part of Beulah’s mission of building generational wealth,” he said, is ensuring that families can leave assets to their children.”
The particular type of foreclosure that Tilley is undergoing — a tangled title” foreclosure involving a property with an uncertain or unofficial heir — has particularly affected Black families in cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Of 13 other Beulah houses near the Orchard and Munson intersection, just one has changed ownership to a corporate landlord. After an apparent foreclosure in 2013, the house at 318 Munson is now owned by an affiliate of the city’s largest poverty megalandlord, Mandy Management. 
Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven (NHS), another nonprofit developer that has created affordable homeownership opportunities in New Haven for more than 40 years, has seen about 90 percent of the homes it has built in New Haven remain owner-occupied, according to Bridgette Russell, the organization’s managing director.
When nonprofit-developed, homeownership-oriented houses do fall into foreclosure, Russell said, the owner-occupancy and income restrictions on future buyers sometimes remain in place and sometimes do not, depending on how the development was originally financed. Some lenders are reluctant to do the financing if [the owner-occupancy and income requirements] survive foreclosure,” Russell said.
The Tilley house could be sold to any buyer, since Beulah’s original owner-occupancy requirement lapsed at the start of 2022. But Tilley is working to gain official ownership of the house, seeking help from Neighborhood Housing Services and the Wallingford-based community development fund Capital for Change. He was able to stall a foreclosure sale planned for his house early August by filing for bankruptcy, and he’s now working to add his name to the house’s deed.
The uncertainty of his housing situation weighs on Tilley, but he remains calm and optimistic. He stumbled across a mantra that helped him stay positive: It’s always too early to quit.” A devout Christian, he says he’s grateful to God for allowing him to keep his house thus far.
As the fate of his house hangs over his head, Tilley has found meaning in his work as a residential aide at Continuum of Care, an organization providing housing and social services to people struggling with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance use. At work, he encounters homeless veterans every day. He helps them access specialized housing resources for which he doesn’t qualify.

It’s almost like a mirror picture for me,” he said. I’m just a stone’s throw away from being in their predicament.”
Don’t want to miss a single Independent article? Sign up for our daily email newsletter! Click here for more info.
Share this story with others.

Why does Glesby need to bring Alan's race into this picture? Oh, yes, everything today needs to be about race, even when race is not a factor. Any white person in the same circumstances who acted as Alan did would find himself in the same situation. Did Alan's mother have a will? If not, the house belongs to Alan's siblings (brother Rodney?), or their heirs, as much as to him. (Glesby mentions he is the "youngest child", indicating that others share ownership.). Note, also, the house is appraised at about $200K, while the amounts due to the mortgagee and other lien holders is less than $100K. A sale of the house would net Alan and his brother $50K each, e.g., a bit of "generational wealth" that could be passed on to the deceased grandchildren.

Foreclosures happen when people don't pay. Mr Tilley/mom has racked up $68,000 in back mortgage pymts, so this did not happen in a few months so his claim of not knowing what to do or where to go has no validity. The wealth of the home is not even his. It's his mother's wealth and he just tried to capitalize on it to live there and help his mom without looking ahead to what had to be done. Legal Aid is just dying to help screw landlords and banks. They would have loved to help him.

As I read the court documents, Edythe's estate owes a total of about $70K on the loan she took out to purchase her home. Back payments are and fees are likely about $20K of that $70K. Alan should have been paying rent to the estate to live in its asset, but likely did not, although he did make loan pay payments from about 2015 to January 2020, when he stopped paying. The dwelling was last appraised at $291,000, so there is lots of generational wealth to be had after paying off the deceased debts, at least those secured by the dwelling.

I sympathize with Alan, and getting behind on mortgage payments is a very stressful situation. It can happen to anyone, regardless of race, so I am not sure why this is a news story, let alone one framed as an affront to black generational wealth. Pay your bills, simple as that. Sell the house your mother paid for and take the profit, generational wealth generated.

Exactly. If anything, Alan, who filed a probate case for his mother in 2015, seems not to have sold the house in order to benefit himself by giving himself a low-cost place to live while denying sibling(s) (Rodney) their share Edythe's estate. (The so-called "tangled-title" cases illustrated by NPR generally involved one descendant squatting in an asset that rightfully belongs to many descendants.)

Note, while a May 9, 2002, appraisal valued the house at about $200K, a more recent appraisal, July 11, 2022, put the fair market value at $291K.

Aug 19, 2022 4:55 pm

Why does Glesby need to bring Alan's race into this picture? Oh, yes, everything today needs to be about race, even when race is not a factor.

Would you say race is a factor when it comes to this?

Black couple sues after they say home valuation rises nearly $300,000 when shown by White colleague


Black And Latino Homeowners Are About Twice As Likely As Whites To Get Low Appraisals

Home appraisers are more likely to undervalue homes in Black and Latino areas than those in white ones, a new report by Freddie Mac has found.

It's the latest example of racial inequities in the housing sector, a well-documented phenomenon that has led to lower rates of homeownership among Black and Latino families.

"An appraisal falling below the contracted sale price may allow a buyer to renegotiate with a seller, but it could also mean families might miss out on the full wealth-building benefits of homeownership or may be unable to get the financing needed to achieve the American dream in the first place," said Michael Bradley, a senior vice president at Freddie Mac, a government-controlled entity that guarantees home mortgages.

"This is a persistent problem that disproportionately impacts hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino applicants," he added.


1644, race may have played no role in this particular foreclosure. And it appears that the estate, not Tilley himself, owes the bank the $68,000. Based on my very limited understanding of the law in this area, the debt would remain even he becomes a co-owner of the house. I fear Tilley will lose his home, even if his name is added to the deed. Under similar circumstances, I think the same would be true for a white administrator.

But the broader black/white gap in homeownership and wealth is very much a legacy of racist policies and practices in the housing and employment markets. While I’m not persuaded by the legal analysis of The Color of Law, it provides an excellent history in this area.

Laura, a word on nomenclature. You refer to Tilley as a “social worker”. He is doing important work, and strikes me as a really good guy. But the term usually refers to someone with college training, most commonly a master’s degree, in social work. Calling Tilley a social worker is analogous to calling a CNA a nurse practitioner. Both do important, socially useful work. But they have different roles.

[Reporter's note: Thanks for the comment, Kevin! To clarify, Alan earned a degree in human services at Albertus.]

It's more analogous to calling an LPN a nurse, a term which may cover a broad spectrum of training, from LPNs to diploma RN, Associates degree RNs, BSN RNs, through mid-wives, APRNs/NPS. On the level you seek at, most social workers are keen to identify themselves as licensed MSWs, to distinguish themselves from others doing social work like Mr. Tilley. In general, NHI tends to inflate jobs titles, as does the civil service. (I have noticed the state and city referring to some with only an MPH as epidemiologists, though the "ogist" suffix is usually reserved for those with doctorate degrees (PhD or MD).)

Kevin, neighborhoods rated the same in the 1937 HELOC map, East Rock, Newhallville, Morris Cove, The Annex, Fair Haven East, eastern Fair Haven, Howard Ave, Highwood, have gone radically different directions in desirability and values since the HELOC "redlining". Heck, West Haven got the same rating as Westville and Livingston St. https://collections.leventhalmap.org/search/commonwealth:00000×466

I don’t get what’s going on here. The purchase price was $72K which is a monthly mortgage of about $470. $68K of debt is 12 years of unpaid mortgage. If other commenters are right about late penalties, even if you assume those are half the amount, 6 years of non payment seems to go beyond a “tough financial period”.

The complaint states that non-payment started in January 2020, so there have been only two years of missed payment. The loan was made in 2006 for 134K secured by a mortgage to MERS securing the land from Decision One. March 31, 2020, after the loan was in default, MERS assigned the mortgage to Wells Fargo. It looks like Edythe Tilley took a "cash out" loan. Had she not done so, the house would have been owned free of the original mortgage (although there are other, smaller liens against it, now.)
This garbage at the corner of Shelton Ave and Read St has been on the…
There is a dead skunk on the street. Please remove. Thank you.
©2005 – 2022 New Haven Independent
site: smartpilldesign


About Author