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
New data on the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) show that its program designed to incentivize principal reductions on underwater loans, the Principal Reduction Alternative (PRA), continues to reach a small fraction of homeowners. Recent changes to the program, as well as the $25 billion robosigning settlement, will likely boost the number of homeowners receiving principal writedowns, but the Government Supported Entities (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)’s regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Administration (FHFA), continues to reject calls to allow reductions of principal on its loans. This means that a large number of underwater homeowners will be ineligible for relief, given the GSEs’ substantial market share—as of the third quarter of 2011, the GSEs backed 71 percent of newly originated loans.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, along with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and other state Attorneys General, announced the $25 billion settlement of a investigation into widespread robosigning practices within the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers. Illinois will receive more than $1 billion to write down principal, help underwater homeowners refinance, and compensate homeowners who were harmed by robo-signing. We thank Attorney General Madigan and others across the country who worked hard to ensure that the settlement included much-needed principal reductions, as well as not including an overly broad release of liability for Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and Ally Bank.
“The market has not been kind to the home seller.
The bad news continued last week when the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index reported that Chicago-area homes prices fell in November for the third month in a row, to a level not seen since May 2001.
Governor Pat Quinn recently announced a major investment in stabilizing some of the communities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. The Illinois Building Blocks Pilot Program would put $55 million towards rehabilitating and promoting the sales of vacant properties in Berwyn, Chicago Heights, Maywood, Park Forest, Riverdale, and South Holland. As the south and west suburbs have been severely impacted by foreclosures, we applaud the Governor’s dedication to putting vacant homes back into productive use.
In recent weeks, President Obama has announced a series of programs designed to help homeowners stay in their homes and stabilize communities hard hit by foreclosure. The programs improve the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and expand similar benefits to homeowners with non-GSE-backed loans through an FHA refinance program, introduce a Homeowners’ Bill of Rights with better mortgage disclosures and standardized servicing practices, and expand HAMP eligibility and triple incentives for servicers to conduct principal writedowns, among other initiatives. Together, these programs will help make homeownership more affordable and boost homeowners’ incomes and/or equity. We call on Congress to work through the political gridlock to pass these measures.
During his State of the State address, Governor Pat Quinn announced the launch of an effort to better connect struggling homeowners to foreclosure prevention resources. He also emphasized the importance of the recent expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which will help working families build wealth and invest in their futures and plans to make Illinois a leader in making public data open and accessible. Woodstock Institute applauds the Governor for making resources more accessible to homeowners facing foreclosure and helping low-income workers build more assets.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is an important tool that gives working families who are barely getting by the opportunity to build assets for themselves and the next generation. With the EITC, low-income tax filers can buy textbooks for their children, make repairs to their home or car, and build a cushion of savings for future emergencies. In 2011, the average EITC recipient in Illinois received $2,250 from the federal government and even more from the state—a substantial boost to working families’ assets. Unfortunately, one in five eligible tax filers do not claim the EITC, missing a chance to invest in their future. Today is Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day, organized by the IRS to encourage workers to file for the EITC and let them know about free tax preparation options available to them.
During his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama announced measures to make homeownership more affordable for homeowners and hold banks accountable for fraud and abuses that rocked the financial system and drained billions of dollars of wealth from families in Illinois and across the country. Specifically, the President announced an initiative to give homeowners who are current on their mortgages the opportunity to refinance at today’s record low rates. He also announced the creation of a unit, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, which will focus on investigating abuses in the mortgage origination and servicing sectors.
New data on the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) show that the program is unlikely to reach many eligible homeowners before it expires. Additionally, HAMP is not effectively addressing the problem of negative equity, nor is it likely to while the current conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA), refuses to allow principal reductions on the loans backed by the GSEs. New leadership is needed at the FHFA to effectively address the problems facing the housing market.
CHICAGO—President Obama today announced his recess appointment of Richard Cordray as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Woodstock Institute released the following statement:
Readers, we want to thank you for making this such a great year for the Woodstock Institute blog. Together, we’ve explored new economic security issues that face low-wealth communities and communities of color and examined how long-standing problems continue to be pervasive.
We wanted to know what you thought were the most interesting stories on the blog this year, so we put together a list of the ten most popular stories of 2011. Did your favorite story make it on the list?
The latest data on the performance of the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) show that while the Chicago region has seen large increases in permanent modifications year-over-year, growth from month to month continues to be small. The rate at which servicers are adding new permanent modifications is slow enough that many homeowners in need of help will likely not receive it before the program sunsets on December 31, 2012.
Woodstock Institute and its Board of Directors are pleased to announce that Spencer Cowan will join Woodstock in December 2011 as Vice President of Applied Research.
Eliminating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has been a top priority for some lawmakers looking to reform the housing finance system. Congressman Scott Garrett (R-NJ) recently filed a draft bill that proposes a private alternative to the government-sponsored entities (GSEs). Congressman Garrett’s plan, The Private Mortgage Market Investment Act, was positively received by legislators on both sides of the aisle and by Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Acting Director Edward DeMarco, but serious concerns remain as to its ability to stabilize the housing market
Bank of America announced yesterday that it would rescind the introduction of a $5 monthly fee for debit card use after a vocal negative reaction from the public. This announcement comes on the heels of J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Suntrust, and other banks deciding to forgo newly introduced debit fees. For more than 70,000 people, however, the retraction of debit card fees was too little, too late. They have announced on Facebook that they are closing their accounts at big banks and moving to local credit unions or community banks by Saturday, November 5.
At the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago this fall, community leaders and consumer advocates spoke out against Capital One’s proposed acquisition of ING—a deal that would create yet another too-big-to-fail bank. We thank everyone who came out and made their concerns heard.
The Home Affordable Modification Program, Neighborhood Stabilization Program, Circuit Court of Cook County Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program, and Hardest Hit Fund: all of these programs, designed to attack the foreclosure crises in different ways, have one thing in common—they depend heavily on housing counselors for their success. Even as there continues to be a pressing need for foreclosure prevention services, funding for housing counseling is undergoing major cuts. The HUD Housing Counseling Assistance Program was zeroed out in part of 2011 and in the 2012 appropriations bill proposed by the House of Representatives. A fraction of that funding has been restored, but it is still less than existing funding levels that are already insufficient to meet the need for counseling services. Our research showed that there are significant gaps in housing counseling resources in areas that have seen recent increases in foreclosure activity, particularly in South Cook County.
The foreclosure crisis has posed unprecedented challenges to all levels of government. Cities, counties, and states have been laboratories for creative foreclosure prevention programs, trying out different models to see what works and what doesn’t. Communities can more effectively address the foreclosure crisis when we learn from the experience of others. In that spirit, Woodstock Institute met with Rachel Blake of Philadelphia’s Regional Housing Legal Services this week to see how Philadelphia is approaching its foreclosure challenges.
Solutions to the foreclosure crisis have been notoriously difficult to pin down, in part because the forces that drive foreclosure are diverse and changing. Some borrowers are under duress because their monthly payments have grown substantially. Others owe more on their homes than they are worth or have lost their incomes due to unemployment. Each situation requires different types of interventions to effectively prevent foreclosure whenever possible. The majority of government interventions thus far have focused on helping homeowners whose payments have become unaffordable. The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) recently launched a $445.6 million program that’s designed to help the third group—people struggling with their mortgage payments due to a significant loss of income.
Treasury has issued reports on the Home Affordable Modification Program for over a year and a half. While we’ve been looking at changes in the program month-to-month in our regular HAMP analyses, we’re going to look at the yearly changes now that we have more than a year of data to examine and get a broader view of how the program has changed over time.