Cook County foreclosures backlogged in courts

September 22, 2011

A new study says Chicago-area foreclosure cases are taking longer to process. 

The data, compiled by Woodstock Institute, says the median time for a house to complete foreclosure in the second quarter of 2011 was 359 days. That’s up 25 percent compared to the same time last year and a record high since the housing crisis started in 2008.

According to Sarah Duda, a senior researcher at Woodstock Institute, last year’s foreclosure moratorium and increased case scrutiny overwhelmed the courts and contributed to a backlog in the system.

“A lot of the cases that were set to be scheduled or set to be processed in 2010 or in 2011 - those are getting pushed back,” Duda said. “This particular data, foreclosure data, is very sensitive to process changes, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the levels of distress in communities are getting better.”

The study also shows the number of houses completing foreclosure at auction in the first six months of this year was cut in half compared to the same time last year. Duda attributes that to the court backlog, not to less foreclosure filings. She said that while longer processing times could help families save their homes, they can also put increased pressure on neighborhoods struggling with high vacancy rates. 

“If the property’s vacant, longer process times could be problematic and very harmful for communities,” said Duda, who cited earlier Woodstock research with connecting incidences of foreclosure to increases in violent crime and decreased property values. “When there’s a vacant property that’s tied up in foreclosure where there’s unclear ownership, unclear responsibility, it has more opportunity to be toxic and contribute to destabilizing impacts.”