Residents urged to seek help, education on foreclosure

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With a little more than a 10 percent increase in Cook County foreclosures since the fourth quarter of 2010 and home prices plummeting throughout Chicago in recent months, housing experts are encouraging homeowners to be proactive in seeking advice to prev

With a little more than a 10 percent increase in Cook County foreclosures since the fourth quarter of 2010 and home prices plummeting throughout Chicago in recent months, housing experts are encouraging homeowners to be proactive in seeking advice to prevent residents from potentially losing their home.

Analysts say major factors driving Chicago foreclosures recently have been negative equity, high unemployment and predatory mortgage loans.

Diantha Hudson-Garcia and her family nearly lost their South Side home after facing the prospect of foreclosure several years ago.

“It was scary. It was really scary,” Hudson-Garcia said.

After a two-year legal battle, Hudson-Garcia, with the assistance of lawyers and help from several non-profit organizations, including the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, was able to save her home from foreclosure.

Now the real estate broker has sought to educate those who are in a similar position.

“I traveled the country and realized that this was happening everywhere,” she said in reference to the staggering number of families who were going through the foreclosure process. “I decided to educate myself.”

Hudson-Garcia shared some of her newfound knowledge at an event with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to educate homeowners about the option available to prevent foreclosures from affecting them.

According to Woodstock Institute vice president Geoff Smith, there are some 12,674 abandoned properties in Chicago that can be traced to the foreclosure process. Those properties represent 69 percent of the abandoned properties in the city. What makes that an even more shocking figure is that these are only the properties of which the city is aware, he said.

Of those properties, 1,896 are considered to be bank-abandoned. These are properties that involve a pending foreclosure lawsuit that has never been resolved.

Smith said most of the vacant lots are located in African American communities already hard hit by the housing crisis.

The local housing think tank estimates that the vacant properties costs the city upwards of $36 million and reports that Chicago has the second largest number of vacancies in the United States.

Equally troubling is that many of the homes – some 71 percent of them found in predominately Black communities – has fallen into the red flag territory. These properties are deemed red flag where a foreclosed home has been filed but no legal outcome has been finalized.

African American communities are 11 times more likely to have a so-called red flag home than are white communities, while they are three times more likely to have a foreclosed property and six times more likely to have a vacant building, according to research conducted by Smith.

Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago West Englewood neighborhood director Carole Grant-Hall said one of the biggest hurdles residents have to overcome is being willing to disclose they require assistance.

“Some people don’t want others to know their business,” Grant-Hall said. “But once your home becomes foreclosed then everyone will know. “It is important that people ask for help.”

Grant Hall said the organization, which provides free counseling, workshops and other homeowner services to an area that saw 506 foreclosure filings last year, has been actively involved in pursing forming block clubs that will be used to in educating the community on responsible home ownership.

“(Foreclosures) are devastating to the community,” she said. “There are vacant lots in areas that you just didn’t see before. Now we see people moving back to live with their parents or with relatives.”

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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