Our latest report, “Left Behind: Troubled Foreclosed Properties and Servicer Accountability in Chicago,” has created a wave of buzz from the Chicago region and beyond, generating dozens of stories, thousands of comments, and scores of tweets and Facebook posts. In case you missed it, the report found thousands of troubled foreclosed homes in Chicago that are likely poorly maintained, lack clear ownership, and threaten to destabilize neighborhoods. These homes include what we call “red flag” properties, where a servicer has decided not to complete the foreclosure process, and likely-vacant lender-owned properties that are not registered with the City of Chicago potentially in violation of its vacant properties ordinance.
Here’s a sampling of the commentary and proposals generated by the report:
The impact of troubled foreclosed homes
“The city's Roseland neighborhood, on the city's far South Side, is one example. In 2007, some of the pictures of the homes taken by the Cook County assessor's office showed properties that were reasonably well cared for by homeowners.
A little more than three years later, the number of eyesores has grown. Windows are broken, fences are missing and plywood covers some of the broken windows. Even if the houses look secure from the front, back doors are sometimes missing or open. Public records show that foreclosure actions initiated were never completed and titles to properties never transferred.
Woodstock's research shows there are 137 "red flag" properties in Roseland. Also, only 90 of the 214 bank-owned properties in the neighborhood, or 42 percent, have been registered with the city.” –Mary Ellen Podmolik, Chicago Tribune
“We've seen this before in areas with declining populations like Detroit. These are always low end homes that are worth less than the cost of foreclosing - and it leaves behind a mess for the community and the city.”—Calculated Risk
“On Thursday night, residents made a plea for mortgage servicers and banks to not walk away from their responsibilities.
To hear neighbors talk about their old beloved Roseland neighborhood, their eyes light up; when the subject turns to present day Roseland, their enthusiasm dims.
"To see houses boarded up like this, like you're in a prison camp or something," said Roseland resident Marlene Paige.”—Leah Hope, ABC 7 Chicago
“Here’s what happens – a homeowner stops paying, the bank servicing the loan files a foreclosure, the homeowner moves out, but then the bank decides it doesn’t make financial sense to actually take ownership. Then the house sits empty. Geoff Smith of Woodstock Institute co-wrote the report.
"While that’s all happening, the property takes away from the quality of life in the surrounding community, costs the city substantially and the servicer essentially walks away without any type of accountability," Smith said.”—Ashley Gross, Chicago Public Radio
“And once [servicers] charge [a property] off, they're no longer responsible for completing the foreclosure process and maintaining the property. Most likely, it's not being lived in, but the foreclosure was never completed. It's in limbo. Nobody cares about it because it's not worth enough money for anyone to care.
Except if you live next door. Or you have one of these homes in your police beat. Maybe your kids walk home from school past these abandoned homes, making you worry a little bit.” –Megan Cottrell, Chicago Reporter
“So, it's obscene for individuals to walk away from mortgages they can no longer pay for but bankers think it's OK for them to do so and leave the problem for communities to deal with? You can bet they'll be able to write off their losses. But home-owners who live in neighborhoods where banks are walking away won't be able to write off their own losses associated with collapsing property values. The banks also won't have to deal with the inevitable rise in crime and other problems unoccupied properties generate.” –Daily Kos
Solutions Proposed By Commenters
“The big banks are making huge profits again. We need to force them to pay for rehabbing these properties so they can be sold or leased at fair market value. Not profitable in the short term, but good for everyone in the long term.”—Commenter on the Tribune story
“Why not pass legislation that forces banks to demolish homes for which they no longer are willing to take responsibility? For a few thousand dollars, the note-holder can relinquish control of the property that is a lost investment and remove the blight from the community.” —Commenter on the Tribune story
“If they are going to just abandon the house, then why don't they work out a deal with the homeowner?” –Commenter on The Consumerist