This train is now running express.
Under a bill signed into law this month by Gov. Pat Quinn, abandoned homes can be fast-tracked to foreclosure. That means their upkeep becomes the lenders’ responsibility before they fall apart and drag down a neighborhood’s economy and security.
The bill will also force banks to pay a fee on every foreclosed home, which will go to finance housing counseling for people facing foreclosure.
“The legislation addresses some of the key issues communities continue to face, including a lack of resources to help communities recover from foreclosure and prevent blight,” said Katie Buitrago, a senior policy and communications associate at the Woodstock Institute, a Chicago-based research and advocacy group on issues of fair housing and lending.
In many areas of the state, the housing crisis is far from over. Between 2011 and 2012, the six-county Chicago area saw 2.9 percent jump in foreclosures, while McHenry and DuPage counties saw an increase of 8.1 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively, according to a report Woodstock released this month.
The bill’s goal: “To get some stability in the housing market,” said state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, the measure’s sponsor. It “is critical to leading the broader economy out of recession.”
Here’s how the fast-track process will work. When a lender finds that a property is abandoned, it can file a motion for an expedited process through the housing court. The process will proceed once the property is confirmed to have been abandoned.
Buitrago stresses that the process is meant for abandoned homes and should not interfere with due process for homeowners going through foreclosure.
The bill requires that notices are delivered to municipalities--and, in the case of Chicago, to aldermen--whenever a foreclosure notice is sent to a home in their area. That puts the onus on the municipalities to check the state of abandoned properties and ensure they are registered as such.
Advocates expect the time it takes for foreclosures of abandoned homes to make their way through the court to be reduced to as little as 90 days.
That’s a far cry from the current timeline in Illinois, which is the fourth slowest among states in pushing foreclosures through the system, according to RealtyTrac, an Irvin, Calif.-based real estate company specializing in foreclosed properties. According to the company’s October 2012 report, it takes an average of 673 days for foreclosures to be completed in Illinois.
But what really holds up the foreclosure timeline are loan servicers, Buitrago said. “Their representatives may have incorrect information about the case, have improperly prepared documents, or fail to provide necessary documentation in a timely manner,” she said.
Meanwhile, communities are struggling with empty, crumbling buildings that no one is taking responsibility for, said Aileen Kelleher, communications director at Action Now Institute, a community group that organizes around housing. “Vacant buildings are one of the main issues of our members who live on the South and West sides,” Kelleher said. “They are a blight on the community and definitely encourage violence because they are usually not secures or maintained.”
In March, a young girl was raped at gunpoint between two vacant buildings only two blocks away from her elementary school in Englewood. Both of the buildings were abandoned, but neither was registered as such.
“A home is the foundation of our families and our communities,” said Quinn on the day he signed the new measure into law. “This law will help restore neighborhoods and property values while fighting crime and blight by decreasing the time a home sits empty and getting it back on the market quickly.”
Photo credit: *hajee