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In Illinois, Hope in a Tough Housing Market

By Kevin Robinson in News on Apr 6, 2009 4:00PM

Photo by metroblossom
Governor Pat Quinn was in Chicago's West Lawn neighborhood this weekend to sign into law a bill that extends a 90 day grace period to homeowners facing foreclosure. The bill, which passed the state legislature in late January, prohibits lenders from beginning foreclosure proceedings during the first 30 days of delinquency. After that, lenders are required to tell homeowners that they have 30 days after that period to seek credit counseling. Homeowners who get counseling from a HUD-approved credit counselor then have an additional 30 days to work out a plan to begin making payments on their home loan again.

"This is a day that we are going to commit ourselves to straightening out a major problem in Illinois," Quinn said before he signed the bill at a church in Chicago's West Lawn neighborhood. "We believe in fighting hard for neighborhoods." He was joined by House Speaker Mike Madigan. "This is really a continuing struggle," Madigan said. "A continuing battle against people who don't care about neighborhoods. Their only concern is to make money."

In Cook County, meanwhile, Sheriff Tom Dart has made the eviction process less burdensome for renters. Since Dart imposed a moratorium on evictions last October, the county, the county has only executed about 65 of more than 800 evictions. Banks that are foreclosing on rental properties must prove that tenant have been given 120 days notice, Sheriff's deputies visit the property three times prior to the eviction, and connect tenants with social workers to help them access services to help them find new housing. Dart's strategy hasn't gone unnoticed. "I don't know of anyone else taking all those steps," Fred Wilson of the National Sheriff's Association told the Sun-TImes. "I would want to share those with our folks [because] they all see the same dilemma."

Foreclosures were up 30 percent nationally this February, and in Cook County they've doubled in the last two years. Evictions have tripled. In Illinois over 100,000 foreclosures are expected this year.