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 latest data on the Obama Administration’s foreclosure prevention program show that it continues to reach Chicago area homeowners, albeit slowly. There are a few bright lights that could signal a more efficient program, but it still has a long way to go to reach a meaningful fraction of homeowners facing foreclosure.
With estimates showing a shadow inventory that numbers in the millions, it’s clear that the foreclosure crisis is not done wreaking havoc on the housing market. It seems that the ideal outcome for families, communities, and investors alike would include avoiding as many foreclosures as possible and keeping homes occupied. A number of strategies have been deployed in support of this goal, some more effective than others. One thread is common among the diverse array of approaches: the importance of HUD-certified housing counselors, who were hit with a major funding cut in the FY 2011 budget. Please take action this week to help get this funding restored for the 2012 budget.
Bank of America recently announced that it will donate 150 vacant, foreclosed properties to Chicago-area nonprofits for rehab or demolition. Housing Wire reports:
As it gets closer and closer to the July 21 deadline for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to get started on the business of protecting consumers, attacks on the Bureau are picking up intensity.
Don't forget--this Thursday, representatives from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, CitiMortgage, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Community Investment Corporation, and Oak Park Regional Housing Center will debate the impact of proposed changes to the housing finance system on communities of color and low-wealth communities at a panel we're hosting at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
It’s hard to feel lonely in Roxie King’s house. The walls are packed with row upon row of pictures of Roxie’s parents, two children, twenty grandchildren, and other loved ones celebrating various stages in life. On a recent visit, Roxie proudly showed Woodstock friend Bobbi Ball of Partners In Community Building, Inc. and me around her clean and cozy ranch-style home of 37 years near Midway Airport. Given her good cheer, it was hard to believe that, just last year, she was at risk of losing this home.
Banks repossess nearly 2,800 homes in Cook County in the first quarter of 2011
Completed foreclosure auctions in Cook County increased substantially from the final quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2011, adding thousands of properties to the County’s vacant property inventory, say new data released today by Woodstock Institute. The 10.5 percent increase in completed foreclosures from the fourth quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2011 was likely caused by a resumption of foreclosure activity after the end-of-year pause in many servicers’ foreclosure processes due to the robo-signing scandal.
We admit it: it’s been quiet around the Woodstock blog this week. That’s because a majority of our staff was out most of last week enjoying another productive National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) Annual Conference in Washington, DC. At NCRC, we shared ideas and learned new ones from community investment practitioners from Hawaii to Boston, discussed pressing issues with the Illinois congressional delegation, and got up-to-date on new strategies, programs, and financial products during the workshops.
We at Woodstock Institute have long argued that, in order for loan modifications programs to effectively prevent foreclosures on a broad scale, they need to include a component of reducing the principal owed on underwater homes. In fact, we bring it up pretty much every time we talk to policymakers, regulators, and the media when they ask us what needs to be done to fix the foreclosure mess. Principal writedowns became more relevant—and controversial—than ever when it was recently revealed that Attorneys General may include a principal writedown component to their settlement with loan servicers over improperly preparing foreclosure documents. A common criticism of principal writedown is that by offering to reduce the amount a borrower owes, it would encourage other borrowers who owe more than their home is worth but could afford to continue making payments to default on their loans so they too could get their principal reduced—or, as economists call it, moral hazard. That concern is not unreasonable, but it shouldn’t stop us from pursuing principal writedowns for one simple reason: they work.
Our staff has been studying failure, it seems: failed industries, failed fortunes, business failures, a “house of the future” destroyed by a flood. More details below:
With all the media buzz about the “mancession,” one might be forgiven for thinking that women emerged from the recession unscathed. It’s true that men are overrepresented in industries that were hit hardest by the recession, like construction and manufacturing, but that isn’t the whole story when it comes to measuring economic security. Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) hosted a conference last week for its network of national partners, including Woodstock Institute, to explore persistent challenges to women’s economic security, from childhood to retirement.
Members of the Regional Home Ownership Preservation Initiative, of which Woodstock Institute is a lead partner, sent a letter urging the Illinois delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives to vote against H.R. 839, The HAMP Termination Act of 2011, which would cancel funding for the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). In the letter, Housing Action Illinois, Metropolitan Planning Council, Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, and Woodstock Institute told representatives:
Debt protection and credit insurance are high-cost, low-value products that are poorly understood by consumers and inadequately monitored by regulators. The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act should shed some light on these often shady products.
When the South Suburban Housing Collaborative and the West Cook County Housing Collaborative were formed in 2009, they were built on a bold idea: that municipalities could look beyond political boundaries and work together to tackle the pressing housing needs of their areas, from foreclosure response to affordable housing to strategic and sustainable development. It was a tall order, and one that had scarcely been tried elsewhere. Almost two years later, the experiment is starting to show positive results. The West Cook County Housing Collaborative broke ground on their first project this month in Maywood.
It’s clear that vacant homes put a damper on their surrounding community. Not only are they eyesores, they put other homes at risk of losing value and may attract crime and other destabilizing elements. To minimize these risks, many municipalities have ordinances that allow them to hold the homes’ owners responsible for securing and maintaining the property. What can already-strapped local governments do if it’s unclear who the owner is, or the owner hasn’t notified them that the property is vacant?
This week, the payday lender Illinois Lending Corp. filed a lawsuit challenging portions of a new law that enacts many necessary consumer protections for small consumer loan borrowers. Specifically, the suit challenges provisions of the law that prevent lenders from holding a license for shorter-term payday loans in addition to a license for longer-term consumer installment loans. The lawsuit coincides with the introduction of a bill authored by Rep. Daniel Burke that would remove the dual license restriction, scheduled for a hearing in front of the Illinois House Executive Committee tomorrow.
As our monthly Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) analyses have continued to point out, it’s no secret that HAMP isn’t doing enough to put a substantial dent in the wave of foreclosures hitting the Chicago area and the country. The greater Chicago region has still seen 132,289 new foreclosures since HAMP was introduced—clearly, the need for substantial and sustainable foreclosure prevention assistance is huge. We need to fix HAMP to match the realities of troubled homeowners.
Do your dreams take place among rolling fields of foreclosure data?
Do sloppy data make you have a conniption fit?
Then you should apply to be our research assistant/intern!
Shani Smith always dreamed of buying a home in her neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. When the payments on her mortgage skyrocketed, that dream turned nightmarish. For eight months, Smith has tried to negotiate with her bank to lower her payments to a level that she can afford—to no end. Smith tried everything she could, even paying $4,000 to a law firm that promised—and failed—to secure a loan modification. After counselors at a loan modification fair in downtown Chicago told her they couldn’t help, Smith walked 64 blocks home—that’s 8 miles—because she couldn’t even afford bus fare.
Representatives from leading policy and community development organizations met with Senator Dick Durbin on Thursday, February 24 in the Roseland neighborhood to examine ways to stop the scourge of vacant homes on Chicago area communities.