Two victories in the fight against foreclosures

Groups advocating on behalf of Illinois residents threatened by foreclosures recently won two important victories: the approval of a $3 million Cook County budget allocation for foreclosure mediation and the passage of a bill in the Illinois General Assembly empowering municipalities to better address the problem of vacant and foreclosed properties in their communities.

 
The Cook County foreclosure mediation program is based on a successful mediation pilot program in Philadelphia. During court mediation, borrowers sit down with their lenders in the presence of a trained third-party mediator and try to find a mutually agreeable work-out through loan modifications, refinancing, payment plans, or other solutions. Officials in Philadelphia cite high rates of success, with initial data showing that 60 percent of participants have been able to stay in their homes. Now, any defendant or plaintiff in a Cook County foreclosure case can request mediation before the judge enters a final decision. An additional $500,000 has been allocated for housing counseling—an important increase in resources that Woodstock has identified as a top priority. This budget amendment is the result of over a year of hard work on the part of community groups, particularly Action Now. Woodstock staff reached out to Cook County Commissioner Jerry Butler in support of the budget amendment.

Municipalities have struggled with the problems that come with high concentrations of vacant properties—namely, rising violent crime and decreasing property values. Until now, local governments have had limited power to maintain these properties and return them to productive use when their owners were unable or unwilling to do so in a timely manner. Senate Bill 1894, championed by Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI), enables municipalities to target troubled buildings sooner rather than later by providing an early warning system that notifies authorities when a foreclosure action is initiated, when the action is completed, and when a tax sale occurs. SB 1894 also gives municipalities more authority to secure and maintain troubled buildings and to recover the costs of providing those essential services. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature and will become effective 60 days after becoming law.  Click here to learn more about this issue and what additional steps need to be taken to keep properties in productive use.

Woodstock Institute applauds the dedication of Action Now, BPI, and all groups who worked on these initiatives. Their hard work expands Illinoisans’ ability to find solutions to the foreclosure crisis.

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