By Nathalie Tadena
May 29, 2009
 
Fighting foreclosures is a major political battle in Washington, D.C.
For some Evanston residents, the fight is hitting close to home.

In Evanston, the owners of 83 properties filed for foreclosure from
January through March of this year, according to a recent report by the
Woodstock Institute, a Chicago-based policy and advocacy non-profit
organization. The number of foreclosure filings is up 34 percent from
this period last year. In 2008, a total of 267 properties were
foreclosed in Evanston.

Other suburbs have also been hit by the housing crisis – in the
metropolitan area, the number of foreclosures is up 36 percent,
according to the report.

The increase in foreclosures is a concern for the City of Evanston, said Donna Spicuzza, a housing planner for the city.

"We don’t like to see vacant buildings and people losing their homes," she said.

People renting a home that has been foreclosed face a different set of problems.

Renters, even those in good standing, can be faced with eviction or
be forced to sign a new lease if their property is foreclosed.

"Sometimes a property takes a while to go through foreclosure, so
renters may not know that their land is affected," Spicuzza said.

To help homeowners and renters, the City of Evanston posted
additional information online about foreclosures and how to avoid them,
she said.

In addition, local organizations have organized educational forums
about foreclosures for community members, said Wilfred Gadsden,
executive director of the Citizens’ Lighthouse Community Land Trust, a
not-for-profit community organization dedicated to providing affordable
housing in Evanston.

"It’s very important that people look carefully at their financial
situation," Gadsden said. "Even if they’re not immediately threatened
with foreclosure, but if they find that their home is under financial
pressure, they should seek out help."

Renters can turn to assistance from community housing organizations
or U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-certified
counseling agencies to evaluate their options with banks and correct
any incorrect credit information, Gadsden said.

It takes an average of nine months for a foreclosure to be
processed in Cook County. Once a foreclosure transaction has occurred
for a property, renters are required to receive a notice of
foreclosure. Spicuzza said renters should read the notice carefully,
continue to pay rent and negotiate a deal with the new landlord or
bank.

Records of foreclosures are accessible to the public.

Adam Beckman, a Communication senior, lives off campus and said he
did not know that a neighboring townhouse was undergoing a foreclosure
auction.

"I’m not aware of any foreclosures here, and I can’t say that it’s
affected our rent," he said. However, Beckman said his building is a
collection of townhouses that are owned by its residents, and there are
not many student renters.

Legislators are working to address the issue on a national level.
This week, President Barack Obama signed the Helping Families Save
their Homes Act of 2009, a law to improve the current housing market.

Among the law’s provisions is the establishment of protections for
renters facing eviction from foreclosed homes. According to the new
legislation, a renter’s lease would continue to be honored or banks
must notify renters of a foreclosure at least 90 days in advance for
individuals on a month-to-month lease.

Northwestern does not offer any off-campus housing services, said
Associate Director of University Housing Mark D’Arienzo, adding that he
had no knowledge of any NU students displaced by a foreclosed apartment
who were applying for on-campus housing mid-year.

Associated Student Government External Relations Director Jilian
Lopez said improving off-campus housing resources for NU students is a
"top priority." She said ASG hopes to create a more comprehensive
off-campus housing Web site with information on available apartments
and contact information for landlords.

"There are so many variables involved; a lot of students go into
(the search for off-campus housing) blindly and don’t know much about
the process except from their friends," she said.

The search for off-campus housing is already very frustrating for
some students, the Weinberg junior said, but she has not been
approached by any students facing a foreclosed rental.

"If there are students living in a foreclosed residence, it’s
definitely a big issue," Lopez said. "If students run into this,
hopefully ASG can be a resource – we’re hoping to help them work with
landlords to find alternative housing somewhere in case that does
happen."

 
 
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