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Activist’s children fear foreclosure of her home

Seven years after being relocated by East Baltimore Development Inc., the family of Lucille Gorham is facing the loss of the replacement house she bought in Belair Edison.

Sally Gorham and her brother, Wayne Kimbrough, stand outside the home purchased by their mother, community activist Lucille Gorham, after the family was relocated to make room for the EBDI project.

The action comes five months after the prominent community activist passed away at age 81 on Nov. 3 and is a disturbing finale to the saga of her relocation, her daughter said last week.

“The [threats of] foreclosure started right after Mom passed,” Sallie Gorham said. “We didn’t even have a breather.”

Gorham said her mother had taken out a reverse mortgage from Reverse Mortgage Solutions Inc. of Spring, Texas, three or four years ago because she could not afford to pay the mortgage out of her monthly Social Security check and have enough cash left over for living expenses. Also, the house had been burglarized and was in disrepair and she needed extra money to replace the front and back doors and make repairs, Gorham said.

“This right here killed my mother,” Sallie Gorham said, pointing to the two-story house at 3418 Kentucky Ave., which was purchased for $184,900 in 2006. EBDI had given Gorham $151,400 as a “relocation benefit” to cover the cost of new housing and some moving expenses.

Once she moved in, Gorham experienced multiple woes with the house, including several broken appliances, a non-functioning water heater, rodent infestations and a leaky roof, the activist said in a 2011 interview with The Daily Record.

The house today is assessed at $172,900, according to state records.

“This (house) took my mother out even more” than moving from East Baltimore, Sallie Gorham said of the impact of the move from her community.

The family was one of 732 households relocated from Middle East, mostly through eminent domain, to make way for a $1.8 billion redevelopment by EBDI and its partners — the Johns Hopkins University, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the city and state.

Original plans for the property called for a world-class biotech park on 88 acres of urban land linked to Hopkins, as well as 2,000 units of housing. Former residents were told they would be able to return if they chose to.

Those plans stalled and changed, however. Only 220 new units of housing have been built so far. One biotech building has been built at the site, along with a graduate student tower for Hopkins and a nearby parking garage.

The state is also building a new lab for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at the EBDI site on land originally cleared for a biotech building. In addition, Hopkins is managing construction of a $42 million public charter school expected to open within the next 12 months.

“My mother owned her home on Chase Street,” Sallie Gorham said of the three-story brick row house located at 1931 E. Chase St., near what is today EBDI’s headquarters. The Chase street property has been renovated and is now home to new residents. “She did not have a mortgage there. She had just renovated it, too.”

Sallie Gorham said the family has been receiving dunning notices from Towson-based Cohn Goldberg and Deutsch LLC, threatening foreclosure on the reverse mortgage on Gorham’s Belair Edison home. The firm did not return calls for comment on Friday and Monday.

With a reverse mortgage, the borrower receives a lump sum or intermittent payments secured by the property. The interest and principal are payable upon the borrower’s death, and the lender may foreclose if it is not paid.

Sallie Gorham said her mother opted for monthly payments under the reverse mortgage. Before she obtained it, her income from Social Security totaled about $800 a month and she was paying about $536 per month on the mortgage.

The situation has caused tempers to flare.

During a community meeting in January, Sallie Gorham angrily confronted EBDI President Christopher Shea and EBDI Board Chairman Douglas Nelson about the problems her family has encountered since it was relocated.

Only Nelson has followed up, she said last week.

“I asked him about the foreclosure,” she said. “I asked him why my mother was not in a program for a house-for-a-house. I showed him the paperwork. He couldn’t explain it. He called back and wanted me to speak to a lawyer who is a friend of his.”

Neither Shea or Nelson returned a request for comment for this story.

City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who said last year he first met Lucille Gorham when he was 10 years old and compared her to Mother Teresa because of the decades of grassroots service she provided to the poor families in Middle East, said he was unaware of any pending action by the lender.

“I don’t know anything about it, so I can’t comment,” Young said.

In the meantime, Gorham and her brother, Wayne Kimbrough, have pledged to “fight for the house.”

She said she plans to meet with foreclosure prevention advocates at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center this week.

They also have another challenge: The house is listed on the city’s 2013 tax sale property list as owing $2,184 in unpaid property taxes.

“I am not giving up,” she said. “Our family is hurting. This house is all we have left of my mother.”