April 22, 2009 
 
The foreclosure crisis has devastated neighborhoods
all over Chicago, but as described at a community meeting convened by
the Rogers Park Community Development Corporation (RPCDC) March 21,
Rogers Park has been one of the hardest hit.

It has also received relatively little attention since many of the
neighborhood’s foreclosures are in condominium buildings where
foreclosures aren’t as obvious.

There were 288 foreclosure filings in 2008 in Rogers Park, which
amounted to 54 filings per 1,000 mortgageable properties, according to
the Woodstock Institute. The increase in filings over the course of a
single year equaled out to a 157 percent change from 2007 to 2008.

Condos by far had the most filings with 231. Two- to six-unit
properties had 32 filings, and one-unit properties had 24 filings in
the neighborhood.

“We took a look at the data from 2007-08, and in terms of the
numbers of filings, the north side of Chicago is getting hit at a
greater rate, and you could say we’re catching up to the rest of the
city,” said RPCDC associate director Heather Hain. “We’re getting
ours.”

More than 40 people attended the RPCDC event last month at the Indo
American Center, 6328 N. California Ave. It was one of a series of five
foreclosure prevention events on the north side, which has not received
as much government assistance for foreclosures as the south and west
sides.

“Our goal was to offer an informational and education setting to
invite both homeowners and renters who were concerned about
foreclosures,” said Hain.

The organization targeted people in two area codes, 60626 and
60645, who are facing foreclosure or at risk of foreclosure. There was
a particular focus on condo foreclosures.

Condo foreclosures have been a problem citywide, increasing from 12
percent of total foreclosure filings in the city in 2007 to 19 percent
in 2008, according to The Woodstock Institute.

In Rogers Park, condo developments have stopped in the middle of
construction and some condos haven’t been able to turn associations
over to new owners because the buildings haven’t been up to full
capacity, according to Hain and Woodstock Institute vice president
Geoff Smith.

There were buyers who bought more units than they could afford,
planning to sell them quickly but ending up without a market to sell
the units, Smith said. “Their options evaporated and they couldn’t
afford higher monthly payments.”

Smith expects condo foreclosure to continue to grow, mainly because
condos were considered to be the most affordable option for first-time
homebuyers.

Speakers at the RPCDC event included Brian White of the Lakeside
Community Development Corporation, Brenda Grauer from the Illinois
Attorney General’s Office, Rebecca McDannald of the Metropolitan
Tenants Organization, bankruptcy law expert Brendan Stevens and
community activist Mary Hunter.

Local homeowner Alice Singleton, who blogs for The Huffington Post
and is filming a documentary about the economic collapse, also shared
her recent experiences coming within “a hare’s whiskers” of
foreclosure, she said.

Singleton had a standard mortgage for 30 years with a fixed rate, but a month after getting the mortgage, she lost her job.

“I had just moved one month before, and all my savings were gone,”
Singleton said. “I couldn’t get Citibank on the phone to talk to me. It
was brutal. I was referred by the city of Chicago to Heather Hain and
her group, and they helped me.”

Woodstock Institute vice-president Geoff Smith feels that while all
parts of the country are experiencing foreclosure problems, some places
have it much worse.

“If you look at the major cities, [Chicago] is on par, in the
middle,” he said. “In places like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Detroit and
Cleveland, these cities have very high foreclosure rates.”

In Phoenix, a housing bubble burst causing plummeting property
values and many foreclosures, Smith said. Bad loans and the weak
economy have also driven foreclosures nationwide.

”Chicago is a combo of both of those,” Smith said. “Property values were never as high here as in those other cities.”

In regards to Rogers Park and other parts of the north side having
giant percentage increases in foreclosures over the past year, Smith
notes that the north side didn’t have a lot of foreclosures previously
so when a considerable amount happened, percentage increases ballooned.

“In some of those areas, you’re seeing property values declining,”
Smith said, which is another reason that the filings increased.”

Singleton finds poetic justice in the problems that the north side
is facing right now, since residents with poor credit histories or
other issues that once made it difficult for them to get loans are now
suffering from being granted loans too loosely in a credit climate she
describes as the “wild, wild west.”

“It’s almost like one of those old twilight zone episodes where you
ask the devil to grant you eternal youth, and you wind up in jail the
rest of your life,” Singleton said. “It’s ironic.”

 
 
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