Addressing Vacant Properties
Vacant properties destabilize neighborhoods, lower property values, and attract crime. Woodstock Institute advocates for policies that require better maintenance and reuse of vacant, abandoned homes.
When you drive through a distressed neighborhood and see blocks upon blocks of boarded-up houses, you might think that some lender is desperately trying to get those properties off its hands. Some of those homes, however, might not even be on the lender’s radar: they’re sitting in a sort of legal limbo where the lender refuses to complete the foreclosure and the homeowner is long gone. Woodstock Institute is releasing a report later this week that examines what happens when a loan servicer decides that it’s not worth it to pursue foreclosure and the property sits vacant, a phenomenon known as a “lender walkaway.”
A housing counseling agency that’s so swamped with demand for foreclosure prevention counseling that its executive director personally handles clients. Stalled real estate markets where buyers are waiting for prices to drop even further, and buyers who do want to buy now are struggling to obtain financing. Scam artists who take off with troubled homeowners’ last dollars while promising to save their homes. These are some of the challenges that face those who are trying to combat the effects of foreclosure in the Chicago region’s neighborhoods.
The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) should be updated give financial institutions credit for activities that support, enable, or facilitate projects carried out under the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), says a recent public comment letter submitted by Woodstock Institute.
The impact of the foreclosure crisis continues to be front and center for the Chicago region’s communities. The 2010 Regional Home Ownership Preservation Initiative Annual Plenary will be an opportunity to hear from experts on economic and foreclosure trends, as well as a chance to share information about successes, challenges and emerging initiatives from peers and practitioners throughout the region. Topics to be covered include:
An increasing number of Chicago area homes were lost to foreclosure in the first three months of 2010, according to new foreclosure data released by Woodstock Institute. In the first quarter of 2010, there were 9,302 completed foreclosure auctions in the region, the largest number of completed auctions recorded in a quarter since the beginning of the mortgage crisis in 2006. In the Chicago six-county area the number of completed foreclosure auctions in the first quarter of 2010 increased by 56 percent when compared to the first quarter of 2009. The region also saw a nearly 80 percent increase in completed foreclosure auctions from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2010.
The foreclosure crisis shows no signs of stopping—in the Chicago region, new filings rose by over 20 percent in 2009. Every foreclosure leaves behind a property that stays vacant for a period of time. Such vacant properties can drain municipal resources, lower property values, and raise crime rates. Since real estate demand remains weak despite record low interest rates and government incentives, it is likely that these vacant homes will remain a burden on neighborhoods—and on lenders’ books—for a significant period of time. Woodstock research has found that lender-owned properties in Chicago take, on average, close to 16 months to be purchased by new owners and are disproportionately concentrated in communities of color.
Vacant, lender-owned properties are concentrated in African American communities, go unsold longer, and incur greater losses to the lender, says a new report from Woodstock Institute entitled Roadblock to Recovery: Examining the Disparate Impacts of Vacant Lender-Owned Properties in Chicago.