By Leah Hope

January 13, 2011

Illinois is among the top 10 states in the country in property foreclosures, and there are increasing concerns about the condition of bank-owned homes in many communities.

Lenders are expected to take back more homes this year than any other since the housing crisis began in 2006.

In the Chicago area, foreclosures jumped almost 20 percent in 2010. More than 45,000 properties were repossessed by the banks.

A local research organization finds that vacant, unattended homes can cost the city $36 million.

On Thursday night, residents made a plea was made 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.

“People are scared to walk past a boarded up building ’cause there’s no telling what might happen,” said Roseland resident Marcellus Tucker.

The Roseland neighborhood is believed to have 137 vacant homes. The foreclosure process was started but not completed, leaving the ownership of the property unclear if the homeowner is out of the picture and the bank has not taken ownership.

“The property has no effective oversight,” said Geoff Smith, a senior vice president of the Woodstock Institute. “Those properties are highly at risk of falling into disrepair and becoming blight.”

The Woodstock Institute’s recent study looks Chicago properties in limbo. They red flagged nearly 1,900 homes of concern in the city.

“That affects the overall real estate market, the city’s ability to deliver services,” Smith said. “It affects an individual’s ability to access potential equity in their home.”

Back in Roseland, neighbors hope the see their community revitalized and for the vacant homes to house new, responsible neighbors.

“When they invest their money they should think of the little people,” said Roseland resident Mary Merrill. “It would help them in the long run. It would help everybody.”

“If I’m living on South Lake Shore Drive, yeah it’s beautiful there — we want Roseland to be beautiful, like it was years ago. We want it back beautiful,” said Roseland resident Edith Pierson.

A spokesman for J.P. Morgan Chase said they are discussing ways to deal with vacant properties, and a representative for Wells Fargo said they are regularly reviewing reports of abandoned properties, and secure them and prepare them for sale in some cases.

If you are concerned about a vacant property, you are urged to call 311.

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