Katie contributes to Woodstock’s policy development, outreach, coalition building, and communications efforts. Katie also contributes to Woodstock's research and analysis, including reports on the effect of demographics and institutional characteristics on student debt, disparate impacts of negative equity on Chicago area communities and racial disparities in FHA/VA lending. Interests include student debt reform, impacts of and solutions to the foreclosure crisis, homeownership preservation, community reinvestment, consumer finance, financial reform, and financial security over the life cycle. Her projects include crafting informative and engaging communications strategies for economic security issues, assisting the convening of the Regional Home Ownership Preservation Initiative, and developing ways to make Woodstock's data and research more accessible and interactive.
“I combine data-driven policy analysis and effective communication strategies to advocate for better policy solutions to issues facing low-wealth communities and communities of color,” says Katie.
Prior to joining the Woodstock Institute, Katie gained experience in research and communications as a reporter and intern at Chicago Public Radio and the Chicago Reader.
Katie received her Master of Public Policy from the University of Chicago and received her B.A. with honors in Public Policy Studies and Latin American Studies from the University of Chicago.
Recent posts by Katie Buitrago
The overseer of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Ed DeMarco, recently proposed raising fees on mortgage loans made in Illinois and four other states because of their long foreclosure processes. In a disappointing editorial, the Chicago Tribune argued that changing Illinois’ rules that protect homeowners struggling to save their homes would expedite the foreclosure process and encourage a housing recovery. This argument oversimplifies a complex problem and would set back our state’s housing market, not help it.
An effort to encourage mortgage lenders to make safe and sustainable loans is under threat by a mortgage industry-backed legislative push.
We have an opportunity to influence the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) examination of one of the country’s largest banks: Wells Fargo. Wells’ CRA exam is currently happening, and we urge you to take advantage of the chance to tell its regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), how Wells Fargo is—or isn’t—meeting the needs of your community. We have until November 12 to make our voices heard.
“Mistakes” in loan servicing do more than just bungle paperwork: oftentimes, they have profound and destabilizing effects on the lives of struggling homeowners. Some families are told they are qualified for a permanent loan modification, but wait for months on end without it getting finalized; others are disqualified because the banks make mistakes about their income or other characteristics; still more are denied after months of waiting because of lost paperwork and other mistakes. It’s clear that changes need to be made to loan servicers’ processes for dealing with homeowners facing foreclosure.
Woodstock Institute vice president of research Spencer Cowan joined over 150 housing experts, advocates, and community leaders from across the country in Washington, DC, last week to share concerns about the housing recovery and share proposals that would help homeowners, stabilize the housing market, and spur responsible investment. Cowan was joined by fellow Illinois advocates Ed Jacob of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, John Petruszak of South Suburban Housing Center, Kristen Komara of The Resurrection Project, and Toby Chow of SOUL.
Woodstock Institute is hiring for two full time positions to expand our advocacy and communications capacity. Please apply to join a great work environment where we work to advance economic security and community prosperity, or pass along to qualified candidates.
Dory Rand, the president of Woodstock Institute, was appointed this week to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Consumer Advisory Board. The Board will advise the CFPB on a range of issues relating to consumer financial products and practices, as well as alert the CFPB to emerging consumer protection concerns.
Policymakers and advocates, including Woodstock Institute, have raised concerns about the impact of conservative lending patterns on wealth-building opportunities, particularly in communities of color that were hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis and the recession. Our recent research has shown that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is largely alone in providing mortgage credit to communities of color. But what exactly is the mismatch between lending practices and communities of color? How much has credit actually tightened? Take a look at the charts below to get a sense of how the mortgage market has changed over time.
Illinois has passed comprehensive consumer protections that eliminate the worst practices of licensed payday lenders, but there remains a segment of lenders operating in the Wild West that do not comply with state law—unlicensed payday lenders. This week, Governor Quinn signed into law a measure that gives regulators stronger tools to crack down on unlicensed payday lenders. The new law takes effect on January 1, 2013.
Woodstock Institute is seeking a tech-savvy communicator to serve as our communications intern/assistant. The communications intern/assistant will play an integral role in Woodstock's communications strategy that works to advance economic security and community prosperity. Please apply or share this posting with your networks!
The Cook County Board of Commissioners voted this week to take the first steps towards establishing a land bank to help return vacant, blighted homes back to productive use. A land bank could help bring effective and wide-ranging relief to neighborhoods who were hit hard by foreclosures and are now suffering from the decreased property values and higher rates of violent crime associated with vacant, blighted buildings. We applaud the Board for creating an advisory committee to determine how to implement a county-wide land bank.
The one-year anniversary of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is this week, which gives us an opportunity to reflect on the progress the CFPB has made to make the financial marketplace safer for consumers. In particular, the CFPB has emphasized that it values input from the public as it crafts its rules and regulations. From a cutting-edge website that facilitates interactivity to frequent calls for public comment to a consumer complaints hotline and database, the CFPB is in constant dialogue with everyone from consumers to the financial industry. Here’s a look at some of the issues the CFPB has addressed in its first year and how we responded to their public inquiries.
This week, our staff read about how policy ideas change parties over time, how English women experienced the Silk Road, how Chicago came to be what it is today, and how global warming may change where we’re going.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan together with the Department of Justice announced a $175 million nationwide settlement with Wells Fargo over allegations that the bank steered borrowers of color into subprime loans more frequently than comparable white borrowers and charged borrowers of color more money for their mortgages than white borrowers were charged. The settlement will provide at least $15 million in restitution to impacted Illinois borrowers, while an additional $7 million will create a fund for down payment assistance. Currently, approximately 3,300 Illinois borrowers are estimated to be victims of discrimination by Wells Fargo.
New data on the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) from May 2012 show that a growing number of loan modifications are reducing principal on the loans outside of a program designed to incentivize principal reductions. The U.S. Department of the Treasury attributes the growth of principal reductions on loans not participating in the Principal Reduction Alternative (PRA), which provides extra incentives for writing down loan balances, to a settlement reached by U.S. Attorneys General and the five largest servicers on improper preparation of foreclosure documents.
News outlets are reporting that the housing market is on its way back up, but market recovery will not be allocated equally throughout the Chicago area—it’s unlikely that we will be seeing bidding wars in Chicago’s low-wealth communities anytime soon. For these neighborhoods who were hit first and hardest by the foreclosure crisis, the question is now: where do we go from here? We at Woodstock have documented that the fallout from the foreclosure crisis has resulted in vacant properties—particularly abandoned, likely distressed ones—reaching high levels of concentration in the Chicago area’s low-wealth communities and communities of color. African-American communities are 11 times more likely than white communities to have an abandoned, foreclosed home. Fixing up these properties one by one won’t be enough to stabilize highly impacted blocks. Even if a home is rehabbed nicely and affordably, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who wants to live in a home surrounded by blighted houses that can harbor violent crime and bring down property values.
We all know that vacant, abandoned homes hurt entire communities: they make neighborhoods appear less desirable, increase risk for fires and other property deterioration, and often attract violent crime. What’s less certain is what to do with the influx of vacant and abandoned homes spurred by the ongoing foreclosure crisis. Clearly, there’s no quick fix, but policymakers, developers, community organizations, and others have plenty of ideas to turn distressed properties around—and at a scale large enough to make a difference. The Chicago Community Trust and the Regional Home Ownership Preservation Initiative (RHOPI) convened experts from the Chicago area to discuss what strategies they’re pursuing. We summarized the discussion in a white paper to share ideas with those across the country who are trying to stop vacant homes from hurting their neighborhoods.
Back in February, President Obama announced a package of initiatives designed to make refinancing easier for underwater homeowners. The proposals have been crafted into legislative language and need Congressional approval to help homeowners take advantage of historically low interest rates, saving homeowners an estimated $3,000 per year.