May 8, 2009

Foreclosure panel praises city’s efforts to stabilize “condo hells”

Housing services interest groups discussed possible avenues of relief for city residents who have been hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis at a community dinner Tuesday night at the School of Social Service Administration. The panel was organized by the Community Economic Development Organization.

Since 2006, the rate of foreclosure filing has more than doubled in Chicago. The city has been allotted $55 million in federal funding to stabilize foreclosure hotspots in various neighborhoods.

Woodlawn has 770 units of foreclosed property, making it the fourth-highest foreclosure community. “We wanted a condo heaven and what we got was a condo hell. We look at the stimulus package as a way of putting the community back to where it was before the housing crisis,” Mattie Butler, executive director of Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors, said.

Butler advocated new solutions to support people facing foreclosure. “We’ve got to come up with creative ways to dealing with problems. We need new tools,” he said.

Along with discussions on the city’s plans to spend the $55 million, the panel also addressed the question of how to prevent home foreclosure.

Guacolda Reyes, deputy director of community development at the Resurrection Project, discussed her organization’s efforts to help families near the brink of foreclosure with workshops and counseling. “We advocate for the preservation of affordable homes. Our families, unfortunately, are getting the resources a little too late,” she said.

Executive Director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago Bruce Gottschall was impressed by the city’s efforts to mitigate the crisis. “There is no doubt that a lot of work and negotiations are still needed to mitigate the current foreclosure crisis. However, the city of Chicago seems to be headed in the right direction,” Gottschall said.