Foreclosures and housing instability continue to plague the Chicago region and the nation as a whole. Woodstock research shows that completed foreclosures, which often result in bank ownership and vacancy, skyrocketed in the Chicago six county area from the first half of 2011 to the first half of 2012. In Illinois, more than a quarter of homeowners with mortgages are still underwater. These forces continue to threaten the viability of any economic recovery.


The White House invited advocates to discuss their priorities and possible solutions to the crisis moving forward. Cowan shared recommendations with key officials, including U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, and Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury Michael Stegman. Discussions covered the need to expand homeowner access to principal reduction and refinancing, to extend the section of the tax code that allows homeowners receiving principal reductions to avoid having to pay income tax on the amount of principal reduced, to ensure that qualified residential mortgage standards do not lock potentially creditworthy borrowers out of the mortgage market, and to provide full funding for housing counseling services.


After the White House meeting, participants visited the offices of Illinois Senators Durbin and Kirk and urged them to lead on bills currently under consideration, including bills to fund housing counseling services and the Responsible Homeowners Refinancing Act, sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Robert Menéndez (D-NJ), which would make refinancing more easily available to homeowners.


“It’s critically important that the Administration work with communities to learn about emerging issues in the housing market and hear what works on the ground—and what doesn’t,” says Cowan. “This roundtable discussion was an opportunity to let top policymakers know that principal reduction continues to be a pressing need, that we need a safe and sound housing finance system that provides wealth-building opportunities, and that strengthening the housing market is essential for any economic recovery.”


For more information, please contact Spencer Cowan at 312-368-0310 or