Kirsten Srinivasan
Sunday, July 20, 2008

In addition to costing people their homes, foreclosures carry a price tag for municipalities, officials say.

Lansing increased its budget for mowing lawns on vacant properties to $20,000 this year, Lansing Village President Dan Podgorski said. The village tries to find out who owns the property and bill them or place a lien on the home, but the costs of employee time tracking homes and legal expenses add up, he said.

"It’s hard to measure the costs, but it certainly exceeds the maintenance of cutting a lawn," Podgorski said.

Problems from foreclosures are being felt in municipalities throughout the region, said Ed Paesel, executive director of the South Suburban Mayors & Managers Association.

"The worst part is folks losing homes," Paesel said. "But beyond that, once they’ve left the home, villages are left with abandoned properties. Sometimes, they have a hard time finding out whose property it is, weeds go up and vandalism and those kinds of issues, and of course, there’s the loss of the tax base."

Last year, Lansing had 201 foreclosure filings, according to the Woodstock Institute. Podgorski said he didn’t have exact numbers for this year, but foreclosures have definitely grown.

"We are seeing the same thing everybody else is seeing, an increase in the number of foreclosures and houses that are vacant in our village, and we are trying to get a handle on the number of houses and locations as much as we can," he said.

The challenge is tracking the homes and making sure they don’t become eyesores and obvious targets with junk mail piling up on the front porch and tall grass outside, he said.

Calumet City also spends a lot on boarding up homes and lawn service, Calumet City Communications Director Eric Schneider said. The city has about 560 foreclosed properties out of about 17,000 residential and commercial addresses, he said.

"It definitely weighs on the city," Schneider said.

"The majority of banks keep up with the property, but, in instances where the grass is left to grow too high and it’s not properly secured, we have to step in as the city and make sure our neighborhood and the property is kept up for the good of the neighbors and community," he said.

The Calumet City Council recently approved a resolution supporting all efforts of the state General Assembly to protect homeowners’ rights and to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. It also co-hosted a foreclosure prevention seminar in June.

South Suburban Mayors & Managers has been meeting with major lenders and local banks to talk about how it can help ease the foreclosure crisis on a local level, Paesel said. The organization also plans to host a meeting with municipal officials about issues municipalities face with foreclosures and how they are handing them, he said.

Breakout: Local foreclosure filings by year Municipality 2005 2006 2007 Calumet City 304 416 470 Dolton 303 379 413 South Holland 199 237 289 Lansing 119 158 201 Lynwood 73 82 70

SOURCE: Woodstock Institute

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