Chicago foreclosure crisis prompts summit

July 29, 2011

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(Getty Images/David Zalubowski)
A foreclosure sign is featured in front of a house.

In Cook County the number of outstanding foreclosure cases stands at 70,000, a figure that prompted an emergency summit Thursday by longtime Chicago community organizer Leon Finney. The meeting attracted the likes of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis and state Rep. Karen Yarbrough, D-Maywood.

Finney said it was necessary to hear directly from various officials because, despite declarations that the recession is over, solutions to the housing crisis still require a clear assessment.

“We didn’t know what happened with the housing bubble and why it burst," Finney said. "My sense is we were traumatized, looking for what happened and it was almost like a bomb had been dropped on us and didn’t know where it came from and what inspired it.”

In the next few months, a working group that sprang from the summit will suggest local solutions to the foreclosure plague. Finney said the group will consider various tactics, including improved home-ownership counseling, tighter bank regulations and stronger courts.

The summit took place midday at the Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church. At about the same time, Chicago alderman passed a separate action that aims to alleviate the impact of foreclosures within the city.

The new ordinance will hold banks responsible for the maintenance of foreclosed properties. Last year, the city spent more than $15 million to demolish or upkeep vacant buildings.