Banks walk away from some foreclosures in Chicago

A new report says banks are opting not to take possession of some foreclosures, leaving behind abandoned buildings

January 13, 2011

By Ashley Gross

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A new study says banks are choosing to walk away instead of completing some foreclosures, leaving buildings abandoned.

The housing research group Woodstock Institute says it identified about 2,000 of these vacant homes in Chicago. Here’s what happens – a homeowner stops paying, the bank servicing the loan files a foreclosure, the homeowner moves out, but then the bank decides it doesn’t make financial sense to actually take ownership. Then the house sits empty. Geoff Smith of Woodstock Institute co-wrote the report.

"While that’s all happening, the property takes away from the quality of life in the surrounding community, costs the city substantially and the servicer essentially walks away without any type of accountability," Smith said.

Smith says it costs the city money to take legal possession, secure the house and then in many cases, demolish it. He says that could total about $36 million just for the vacant properties his institute identified. Smith says most of them are located in African-American communities already hard hit by the housing crisis.