WBEZ | foreclosures http://www.wbez.org/tags/foreclosures Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Rents may be going up, but residents say they're not going anywhere http://www.wbez.org/news/rents-may-be-going-residents-say-theyre-not-going-anywhere-111269 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Land-trust-2.png" style="height: 240px; width: 320px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="(from right) Arturo Chavez and his roommate, Jorge Herrera, share an apartment for $700 a month in Albany Park. A new building owner is evicting them to convert the units into upscale rentals." />There&rsquo;s a fight brewing in Albany Park over who gets to live there.</p><p>Arturo Chavez would like to stay in the North Side neighborhood, where he&rsquo;s lived for roughly three years &mdash; but that seems increasingly unlikely.</p><p>&ldquo;I go around in a car, looking for places,&rdquo; he says, speaking in Spanish. &ldquo;I see ads, and I call the numbers. Some places were being remodeled. I was told they were going to rent it, but later they told me they had already leased it to family members.&rdquo;</p><p>Chavez is one of the few remaining tenants of 3001 W Lawrence Avenue, a courtyard apartment building with 32 units. In August, new owners bought the building and notified its tenants that they were all to be evicted. The plan is to gut rehab the units and turn them into upscale rentals.</p><p>Inside, ceiling pipes have started to leak and parts of the walls are falling off. Chavez, a car mechanic who has been fighting for workers compensation since he was injured last year on the job, knows he&rsquo;ll have to leave soon. But he says he hasn&rsquo;t been able to find another place nearby that comes close to the $700 monthly rent he pays now.</p><p>&ldquo;The rents are too high and that means people are being separated and they&rsquo;re moving to areas farther away,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Antonio Gutierrez, an organizer with the community group Centro Autonomo in Albany Park, says scores of low-income Albany Park residents have been pushed out in recent years. Just like Chavez, they&rsquo;ve been unable to keep up with the rising rents and property values in some areas.</p><p>&ldquo;I would say about 40 percent of them, they ended up having to leave Albany Park and having to move outside the city to suburbs,&rdquo; said Gutierrez.</p><p>Between 2011 and 2013, the median home price in Albany Park rose almost 40 percent. Gutierrez says after the recession, speculators flocked back to the neighborhood, buying foreclosed homes and driving up property values.</p><p>So last year, Centro Autonomo decided to try a creative idea to bolster affordable properties in the neighborhood: it created a &ldquo;community land trust&rdquo; called Casas del Pueblo. The land trust is a non-profit entity that will acquire properties in the neighborhood, then rent them out.</p><p>&ldquo;(The rent) would just be the taxes for the property, the insurance for the property and a maintenance fee,&rdquo; Gutierrez explained. &ldquo;And they can stay there for as long as they want.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Albany-Park-Median-Home-Sales-Price-Median-Sales-Price_chartbuilder.png" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>The concept of community land trusts is not new to the Chicago area. Gutierrez&rsquo;s variety is a slight twist on something that&rsquo;s been tried before, just a few miles south, in West Humboldt Park.</p><p>There, three, red brick single family homes sit on a residential street next to the noisy Union Pacific rail line.</p><p>&ldquo;The homeowners say the walls were built in a way it&rsquo;s not really bothersome,&rdquo; said William Howard, former Executive Director of the West Humboldt Park Development Council.</p><p>Under Howard, the Council created the First Community Land Trust of Chicago, also a non-profit, in 2003. He said residents at that time were worried their neighborhood might become unaffordable. With the alderman&rsquo;s support, the land trust bought city property for $1 and built the 3-bedroom homes.</p><p>&ldquo;Were it not for these spots, the gentrification would have just swamped everybody,&rdquo; said Howard. &ldquo;A lot of people would have moved out.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Land-trust.png" title="William Howard led the establishment of the first community land trust in Chicago in 2003. It built three, single-family homes that remain affordable, though the recession halted its expansion. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" /></div><p>Howard&rsquo;s land trust follows a more conventional model than the one in Albany Park.</p><p>Instead of renting the homes, it offered them for sale.</p><p>&ldquo;The land trust owns this land in perpetuity,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;And then we get the homeowners, and the homeowners own the house.&rdquo;</p><p>Howard said three things keep land trust homes affordable. First, homeowners don&rsquo;t buy the land; they only buy the house itself. That means the house sells for much less than its market value.</p><p>Second, homeowners have to agree to resale restrictions.</p><p>&ldquo;Even if the homeowners decides later on they want to sell the home, they must sell it to someone of a like economic profile,&rdquo; said Howard. &ldquo;Otherwise the land trust goes bust.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, homeowners have to sell the home to someone that qualifies as low-income. That keeps the resale price of the house low.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="320" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/gentrification/widget/14/" style="float: right; clear: right;" width="400"></iframe></p><p>Finally, homeowners only pay property taxes on the value of the house, not including the land.</p><p>Howard originally wanted to build ten homes, but the timing didn&rsquo;t work out.</p><p>&ldquo;We only got three up,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think anyone at that point had any idea that the recession would last as long as it did or be as deep as it was.&rdquo;</p><p>During the recession concerns about gentrification in West Humboldt Park fizzled out.</p><p>The First Community Land Trust of Chicago still exists, but only to collect the nominal monthly ground lease from the three homeowners in those homes. Property values in the neighborhood dropped so much after the housing bubble burst that it doesn&rsquo;t make sense for the land trust to build additional homes.</p><p>But there is another Chicago-area land trust that&rsquo;s flourishing. It&rsquo;s north of the city, in Highland Park. Luisa Espinosa-Lara and her family once struggled just to rent in this wealthy suburb.</p><p>&ldquo;We thought OK, one day (when) we are able to buy a house, it&rsquo;s not going to be here,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Houses here are so expensive.&rdquo;</p><p>But thanks to Community Partners for Affordable Housing, Illinois&rsquo;s oldest and largest community land trust, Espinosa-Lara and her husband were able to buy a three-bedroom house in Highland Park. They paid $175,000 for it, roughly half of its market value.</p><p>&ldquo;It was like when you feel that you win the lottery, but like you get millions,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;because you don&rsquo;t have to go. And I think it&rsquo;s so painful when you have to leave.&rdquo;</p><p>In Highland Park, the community land trust isn&rsquo;t really about gentrification. Instead, it&rsquo;s about creating inclusive, mixed-income neighborhoods.</p><p>That&rsquo;s what Antonio Gutierrez hopes to do back in Chicago&rsquo;s Albany Park neighborhood. But he&rsquo;s taking on a big challenge. Community land trusts typically need hundreds of thousands of dollars in startup costs, to buy, renovate or build homes. Most of them rely on a mix of public grants and private donations.</p><p>Casas del Pueblo doesn&rsquo;t have that kind of money, so Gutierrez hopes to persuade banks to donate foreclosed homes to the community land trust. So far, this strategy has yet to bear fruit.</p><p>&ldquo;Every single time I get to a meeting with a bank, the first thing they ask is how many houses do you have now? How many houses are you managing? And when we say zero, they close the door,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Still, Gutierrez remains undeterred.</p><p>He believes once they have a couple of homes, others will look to his community land trust as a model for how gentrification can benefit even those it would normally displace.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/wbezoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 08:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/rents-may-be-going-residents-say-theyre-not-going-anywhere-111269 Rehabbing vacant buildings, and the lives of those who fix them http://www.wbez.org/news/rehabbing-vacant-buildings-and-lives-those-who-fix-them-110862 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/green%20housing_140929.jpg" style="height: 351px; width: 250px; float: left;" title="The apartment building on 62nd and Fairfield was once an eyesore and symbol of community blight. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" />A two-flat building in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood was once a neighborhood eyesore.</p><p>It was vacant and vandalized, marked with an X for demolition. The tipping point occurred when a young girl was sexually assaulted in the gangway.</p><p>&quot;It was a symbol of really what was problematic with these properties across this community,&quot; said Rami Nashashibi, executive director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network.&nbsp;&quot;Literally you could&rsquo;ve walked into it at anytime. There was not only drug dealing going on, there was prostitution. Literally the neighbors had to change, then alter their schedules because they were just terrified about what was going on in this building.&quot;</p><p>That galvanized the community made up of neighbors, priests, imams, and rabbis. For them, the building could no longer remain empty.</p><p>IMAN, a social justice nonprofit on 63rd Street went to court and received the home for free from the city. The two flat was then retrofitted and rehabbed by formerly incarcerated men and gives them a place to live.</p><p>It&rsquo;s called the <a href="http://www.imancentral.org/project-green-reentry/">Green ReEntry program</a>.</p><p>IMAN&rsquo;s turning vacant homes into environmentally-friendly dwellings with help from the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs and the Southwest Organizing Project.</p><p>The green component includes eco-friendly insulation, preserving rain runoff with buckets and installing ultra-efficient appliances. In the backyard vibrant swiss chard marks a vegetable garden.</p><p>Now, the building&rsquo;s basement will be a community space for block club meetings or other social gatherings. Two families rent apartments in the rehabbed building for below market rate. The goal is to transition them into home ownership.</p><p>It&rsquo;s a rare bright spot in a neighborhood rocked by foreclosures. According to the Woodstock Institute think tank, the rate of long-term vacancy in Chicago Lawn is nearly twice as high as the rest of Chicago.</p><p>Taqi Thomas moved in the two-bedroom apartment in July but the smell of fresh paint lingers.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t want to fall victim to the streets again so I decided that my best bet was to stay around the muslims instead of going home to my family members. I went to IMAN&rsquo;s transitional housing,&rdquo; said Thomas, who served a 13-year drug conviction.</p><p>Downstairs from Thomas is Khalifa Tyeiba&rsquo;s apartment where he lives with his wife and four children.</p><p>Tyeiba served time for aggravated battery, and has been out of the criminal justice system for more than a decade.</p><p>He said this is what usually happens when he applies for an apartment.</p><p>&ldquo;I paid my debt to society and this that and the other, and they&rsquo;ll say &lsquo;Oh okay, we&rsquo;ll get back to you&rsquo; and I won&rsquo;t get a call back. Or they&rsquo;ll outright say you can&rsquo;t have a felony,&rdquo; Tyeiba said.</p><p>He estimates he&rsquo;s been rejected a dozen times in his quest for renting a place.</p><p>To help more men like him, IMAN is in the process of acquiring two other nearby homes for the Green ReEntry program.</p><p>&ldquo;And so to come here in a community, a decent community I see things getting done,&rdquo; Tyeiba continues. &ldquo;My son goes to school right across the street. Beautiful.&rdquo;</p><p>Tyeiba says he can finally relax a bit. There&rsquo;s no longer the X on his back.</p><p>Nor on the building on south Fairfield Avenue.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. Email her at&nbsp;<a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>.&nbsp;</em><em>Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 07:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rehabbing-vacant-buildings-and-lives-those-who-fix-them-110862 Illinois gets federal money to demolish blighted homes http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-gets-federal-money-demolish-blighted-homes-109930 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/blight.png" alt="" /><p><p>Some parts of Illinois&rsquo; housing market seem to be on a somewhat steady recovery. But communities such as Englewood on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side struggle to even stabilize.</p><p>Illinois was awarded $445 million in federal foreclosure prevention resources under the U.S. Treasury Department&rsquo;s Hardest Hit Fund. Today, the Treasury announced it will allow $30 million from that fund to help demolish vacant properties in blighted areas around the state.</p><p>Mark McArdle is the chief homeowner preservation officer of the Treasury Department. He says blighted properties not only bring down property values in a neighborhood, but can attract crime.</p><p>&ldquo;You have homeowners that are trying everything they can to stay in their house, but when they have two or three vacant houses on their block at some point they say, &lsquo;Why am I fighting so hard to stay in this home?&rsquo; So this [puts them] in a more sustainable position,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>McArdle said only a few other states have used the funds for demolition. Michigan was the first. He said it is too early to quantify direct results, but said research shows blighted homes are a destabilizing force.</p><p>&ldquo;You want to keep the person not only in their home but make sure the neighborhood where that home is located is stable as well,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Not everyone in the neighborhood will agree with demolition as a solution to stabilize. Mary Kenney, executive director for Illinois Housing Development Authority said the state has helped to keep people in their homes and helped rehab troubled properties, but not every house can be saved. Kenney said demolition is the next step in neighborhood stabilization.</p><p>&ldquo;Aside from the fact that they&rsquo;re eyesores, they&rsquo;re often dangerous. We see a lot of mischief around these properties. I think our first goal is to really make sure we&rsquo;re eliminating that from these communities,&rdquo; Kenney said.</p><p>Eligible communities can apply for demolition assistance starting this summer and will also be responsible for upkeep of the resulting vacant lot.</p><p>The first demolitions with federal funding could happen as soon as this fall.</p><p><em>Susie An is WBEZ&rsquo;s business reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/soosieon" target="_blank">@soosieon</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 16:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-gets-federal-money-demolish-blighted-homes-109930 Protections for renters in foreclosed buildings take effect http://www.wbez.org/news/protections-renters-foreclosed-buildings-take-effect-108756 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/signs.jpg" style="height: 284px; width: 350px; float: left;" title="Albany Park Neighborhood Council members gathered Tuesday to publicize the Keep Chicago Renting ordinance, passed in June by the Chicago City Council. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />Tenant advocates cheered Tuesday as new Chicago protections for renters in foreclosed buildings took effect. Their challenge now, they say, is spreading the word about the ordinance.<br /><br />&ldquo;The banks will be fighting it,&rdquo; said Diane Limas of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, a group that worked for years to pass the measure. &ldquo;They will try to figure out every way to throw families out in the streets. But the best way to fight back against the banks is to make sure every renter knows their rights.&rdquo;<br /><br />The ordinance, known as Keep Chicago Renting, won City Council approval in June. It requires the foreclosing entity to provide a building&rsquo;s tenants with a rent-controlled lease until selling the property &mdash; or pay them a &ldquo;relocation assistance&rdquo; fee of $10,600 per unit. The goal is to keep renters in their homes and keep the buildings from standing vacant and attracting vandals, squatters and thieves.<br /><br />Last year there were 4,346 foreclosures on Chicago apartment buildings encompassing 11,932 units, according to the Lawyers&rsquo; Committee for Better Housing, which pushed for the ordinance. The committee says half of those foreclosures were filed by five companies: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and Deutsche Bank. Banks filed about 11 percent of Chicago evictions in the last half of 2012, the committee adds.<br /><br />Groups representing bankers, realtors and landlords say the ordinance will backfire. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s going to be a disincentive for investment in multi-units from a wide range of financing sources,&rdquo; said Brian Bernardoni, senior director of government affairs and public policy of the Illinois Association of Realtors. &ldquo;Any time you have a lack of investment, there&rsquo;s going to be a lack of rehab, a lack of sustainable affordable housing and preservation of affordable housing units.&rdquo;<br /><br />Tenant advocates point out that the measure applies only to the first owner after the foreclosure auction. From there, any party that buys the building is free to evict the tenants without the relocation fee.<br /><br />As aldermen and Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration worked on the measure this spring, the Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association warned that the rent cap would violate the Illinois constitution. Questioned Tuesday, neither the mortgage bankers group nor the Illinois Bankers Association answered whether they were planning a court challenge.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 24 Sep 2013 17:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/protections-renters-foreclosed-buildings-take-effect-108756 For subsidized renters, CHA inspections may be first hint of foreclosure http://www.wbez.org/news/subsidized-renters-cha-inspections-may-be-first-hint-foreclosure-108632 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/vouchers_130909_nm(1).JPG" alt="" /><p><p>When Johneece Cobb collected the mail not long ago at her home in Auburn Gresham, one piece of mail stuck out.</p><p>&ldquo;A letter came in a manila envelope and it said Citibank on it. It was [the landlord&rsquo;s]. I put it in the pile,&rdquo; Cobb said.</p><p>That night Cobb couldn&rsquo;t sleep. She had a nagging feeling that something was wrong.</p><p>&ldquo;Something just kept telling me, look at that envelope. Look at that envelope. I got up at 3 o&rsquo;clock in the morning, walked downstairs got that envelope and I opened it and it was the court papers for the foreclosure,&rdquo; Cobb said.</p><p>This was all news to Cobb. Her landlord never told her. Cobb pays her rent via a subsidized voucher program commonly known as Section 8.</p><p>&ldquo;I have COPD. I&rsquo;m an oxygen patient. And I&rsquo;m disabled. And at this point, I cannot afford to live if it wasn&rsquo;t for Section 8,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>But in this case there wasn&rsquo;t much she could do. It turns out the foreclosure process was underway before she even moved in. Cobb was forced to move out of the home on 84th and Sangamon.</p><p>The Chicago Housing Authority administers the federally subsidized housing choice voucher program &mdash; its largest portfolio of low-income renters. Cobb said CHA swiftly helped her relocate after she alerted officials. But she was in a precarious spot.</p><p>As the foreclosure dragged on, the landlord stopped the upkeep of the property but kept collecting a check from CHA. A month before she moved out, CHA inspected the property and gave it a failing grade.</p><p>That inspection report could&rsquo;ve been the first clue that the property was in trouble.</p><p>According to a <a href="http://www.chicagoreporter.com/news/2013/09/subsidized-housing-voucher-renters-cope-foreclosures" target="_blank">data analysis by <em>The Chicago Reporter</em></a> there&rsquo;s a strong correlation between failed CHA inspections and foreclosures. Beginning in January of last year nearly 1,550 properties occupied by voucher-holders have been named in a foreclosure filing.</p><p>Since 2008, banks have taken over more than 2,400 properties that were inspected within a year of the foreclosure sale. Inspection data from the Chicago Housing Authority suggests that many of the properties were on the slide in the year before the banks took them back.</p><p>Yet many landlords were still receiving subsidies from CHA.</p><p>&ldquo;Where there&rsquo;s smoke there&rsquo;s fire,&rdquo; said Elizabeth Rosenthal, an attorney with the Legal Assistance Foundation, which helps voucher holders who get caught up in the system. &ldquo;You can guess that if there&rsquo;s a landlord that&rsquo;s completely stopped taking care of a building, there&rsquo;s a good chance that there&rsquo;s a foreclosure coming down the pike.&rdquo;</p><p>Rosenthal said CHA is responsive to residents, but she wishes there was a more formal policy on the books.</p><p>&ldquo;We do get a fair number of cases where the tenant calls us because they&rsquo;ve been notified that their building is in foreclosure or sometimes they don&rsquo;t even know their building is in foreclosure. They figure it out because they get a notice from the gas company,&rdquo; Rosenthal said.</p><p>And when that happens often their next phone call is to Tamiko Holt, a voucher holder who advocates on behalf of tenants to CHA. She, too, was forced to move out of a unit more than a decade ago after her landlord went through foreclosure.</p><p>Now she helps renters like Johneece Cobb fight for their security deposits once they move out. It&rsquo;s more than an inconvenience. Hundreds of dollars or more can be a lot for a low-income family.</p><p>&ldquo;We have no protection as far as security deposits. It&rsquo;s like a roll of the dice. Is this landlord or owner going to give your security deposit back or not?&rdquo; Holt said, adding that she wants CHA to do more homework before tenants are placed.</p><p>&ldquo;If they did that, then tenants wouldn&rsquo;t be faced with, &lsquo;oh I&rsquo;ve only been here three or four months, now I&rsquo;ve got to go&rsquo; because this property was going into foreclosure.&rdquo;</p><p>According to CHA&rsquo;s Chief Housing Officer Ellen Sahli, CHA is, in fact, doing more to prevent that from happening. Still, she said when foreclosure notices are sent out they don&rsquo;t go to CHA.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the things that we are looking at and working with our partners on is how we can get those type of supports to us as well,&rdquo; Sahli said.</p><p>But when pressed for details Sahli said &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t at this time give a timeline on it. I think these are all issues that are important to us and we&rsquo;re working hard to figure out what the right strategy is.&rdquo;</p><p>Since the foreclosure crisis hit, there have been new state and local laws to help renters. But tenants don&rsquo;t always know when a bank is stepping in.</p><p>On a recent afternoon at Nikki Johnson&rsquo;s airy, three-bedroom South Shore apartment, the television is on a cartoon channel and the toddlers are sleeping. Johnson runs an in-home daycare.</p><p>Her building is in foreclosure. But she didn&rsquo;t know until I knocked on her door.</p><p>And Johnson was surprised.</p><p>&ldquo;If I do have to move, I want enough time where I could be able to be settled and find something that I can afford. I don&rsquo;t want just to jump out there again in the wind. I&rsquo;m hoping if I do have to move, the program will assist me as far as helping me find another landlord who will take the program,&rdquo; Johnson said.</p><p>Johnson&rsquo;s landlord, who didn&rsquo;t want to be identified, said he got swallowed by new bank policies that wouldn&rsquo;t renew his loan. That, coupled with the falling value of the property, led to foreclosure.</p><p>Unlike a lot of landlords, he said he will continue to cut the grass and pay the bills.</p><p>He may not be paying the mortgage &mdash; but he&rsquo;s still getting money from CHA.</p><p><em>Natalie Moore is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">@natalieymoore</a>.</em></p><p><em>Angela Caputo of The Chicago Reporter crunched and analyzed the data for this report.</em></p></p> Mon, 09 Sep 2013 09:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/subsidized-renters-cha-inspections-may-be-first-hint-foreclosure-108632 Morning Shift: How service members seek conscientious objector status http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-24/morning-shift-how-service-members-seek-conscientious <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Marine-Flickr- United States Marine Corps Official Page.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Now that the armed forces is voluntary enlistment, we may think that service members no longer seek conscientious objector status. That&#39;s not the case. We learn more about the application process for conscientious status.</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-29.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-29" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: How service members seek conscientious objector status " on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Wed, 24 Jul 2013 07:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-24/morning-shift-how-service-members-seek-conscientious Protesters urge banks to give foreclosed homes back to community http://www.wbez.org/news/protesters-urge-banks-give-foreclosed-homes-back-community-108059 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Foreclosed_130715_yp.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In a downtown highrise, a foreclosure auction takes place. But during the relatively quiet proceedings, a group of ten protesters try to take it over.</p><p>Jorge Ortiz is with The Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction. He wants banks to be altruistic and help communities affected by foreclosures.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean we have houses that are empty and abandoned that go on like this for years. They create insecurity in our communities,&rdquo; says Ortiz. &ldquo;They devastate our communities. Not to mention the displacement that happens.&rdquo;</p><p>The group grew to more than 60 people by the time they marched west to protest at Citibank offices at the Ogilvie Transportation Center on Madison Street.</p><p>The organization wants banks to donate foreclosed properties to a community land trust. It&rsquo;s a nonprofit providing affordable housing.</p><p>Currently, they have no homes that have been donated by banks or other lenders. But today&rsquo;s protests weren&rsquo;t for naught. Before police escorted protesters out of the Ogilvie Transportation Center, Ortiz was given the name of a Citibank vice president to contact to continue the conversation.<br /><br /><em>Yolanda Perdomo is a host and producer at WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 15 Jul 2013 16:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/protesters-urge-banks-give-foreclosed-homes-back-community-108059 Take Root Chicago launches to stabilize housing http://www.wbez.org/news/take-root-chicago-launches-stabilize-housing-107843 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/housing.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">A new program to help struggling and potential homeowners is launching in Chicago.</p><p><a href="http://www.takerootchicago.org/">Take Root Chicago</a> will bring lenders, housing nonprofits and advocacy groups under one umbrella. The online portal, which offers a plethora of programs, is targeted at both potential home buyers and those trying to stave off foreclosure.</p><p>Take Root Chicago is sponsored by the Chicago Urban League and Freddie Mac. The program&rsquo;s services range from how to buy cheap vacant homes to financial counseling to finding lending options for first-time buyers.</p><p>&ldquo;You don&rsquo;t have to go to each person to understand what that specific organization is providing. You just go one place and everybody working together to make it happen,&rdquo; said Christina Diaz-Malone, vice president of housing and community outreach for Freddie Mac.</p><p>Take Root Chicago is free to the public and starts August 1. Similar programs are already up and running in Milwaukee, South Florida, Jacksonville and Denver.</p><p>Diaz-Malone said the city is in the top ten of of Freddie Mac&rsquo;s high delinquency markets.</p><p>&ldquo;The goals of the partnership are twofold: increase homeownership and retain or maintain current homeownership,&rdquo; Diaz-Malone said.</p><p>Chicago has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation. Twenty-five percent of blacks in the city have lost their homes during the current crisis, according to the Chicago Urban League. The damage is still visible in pockets of the South and West Sides where some blocks have more boarded-up homes than those that are occupied.</p><p>&ldquo;The devastation that is taking place particularly in African-American and Latino communities in Chicago is tremendous,&rdquo; said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who has <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-06-29/business/ct-biz-0630-countrywide-20100629_1_latino-borrowers-subprime-loans-countrywide-financial-corp">sued</a> subprime <a href="http://www.chicagoreporter.com/news/2007/12/illinois-attorney-general-subpoenas-countrywide">lenders</a>. &ldquo;It wiped out a generation of wealth building and it is going to take us at least a generation to rebuild. That&rsquo;s why it&rsquo;s important that we&rsquo;re here on the backend of this crisis to put in place the resources.&rdquo;</p><p>Sharon Legenza, executive director of Housing Action Illinois, said a one-stop program like Take Root Chicago will be beneficial.</p><p>&ldquo;As most people know we have been very focused on foreclosure prevention programs. This is starting to turn that corner, to bring under one roof both information for foreclosure prevention and the homeownership side,&rdquo; Legenza said. &ldquo;This is unique because it starts to link housing &ndash; rental or homeownership &ndash; as a continuum in peoples&rsquo; lives.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Natalie Moore is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/natalieymoore">@natalieymoore</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 25 Jun 2013 16:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/take-root-chicago-launches-stabilize-housing-107843 City Council enacts ‘Keep Chicago Renting’ ordinance http://www.wbez.org/news/city-council-enacts-%E2%80%98keep-chicago-renting%E2%80%99-ordinance-107553 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SifuentesCROP.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 268px; width: 300px;" title="Housing activist María Elena Sifuentes celebrates outside the council chambers after the vote. ‘We beat the banks,' she says. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />The Chicago City Council on Wednesday afternoon approved protections for renters whose units have entered foreclosure. The ordinance passed in a 45-4 vote after more than a year of organizing by tenant advocates.</p><p>The measure, dubbed Keep Chicago Renting, will require the foreclosing bank to provide the tenants a rent-controlled lease until selling the property or pay them a &ldquo;relocation assistance&rdquo; fee of $10,600 per unit. The goal is to keep renters in their homes and keep the buildings from standing vacant and breeding crime.</p><p>María Elena Sifuentes, a housing activist with the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, said she had been working for an ordinance like this for four years. The council vote left her &ldquo;overwhelmed, excited, speechless,&rdquo; she&nbsp;said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a victory for us that we got this, especially because we&rsquo;re just the little people and we beat the banks.&rdquo;</p><p>The aldermen casting &ldquo;no&rdquo; votes were Mary O&rsquo;Connor (41st), Patrick O&rsquo;Connor (40th), Matthew O&rsquo;Shea (19th) and Michael Zalewski (23rd).</p><p>An earlier version of the proposal, introduced by Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) last July, would have prohibited post-foreclosure evictions outright except under narrow circumstances such as the tenants&rsquo; failure to pay rent.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration worried that version might not withstand legal challenges. Instead of the eviction ban, the city pushed for requiring the banks to pay the relocation fee. Negotiations between City Hall and tenant advocates dragged on for months. The sides did not finalize the amount of the fee until last week.</p><p>The council&rsquo;s Housing and Real Estate Committee, chaired by Ald. Ray Suárez (31st), held two hearings on the bill last month. Before both hearings and Wednesday&rsquo;s vote,&nbsp;tenant activists dressed in orange T-shirts rallied outside the council chambers.</p><p>Groups representing banks, landlords and realtors tried to delay the vote. They said the measure would violate Illinois statutes, including a law that bars local governments from setting up rent control. They claimed the ordinance would also discourage lending in the city. Their arguments did not gain much traction in City Hall.</p><p>After the vote, Mell said his fellow aldermen had realized something: &ldquo;They&rsquo;re all plagued by vacant properties where the banks have thrown the people out. The gangbangers go in. They strip the copper out of the properties and they use them for hangouts and they ruin the neighborhood. So this is one more tool, hopefully, [to] help bring our neighborhoods back.&rdquo;</p><p>The ordinance could have far-reaching effects. More than 50,000 Chicago rental units went into foreclosure between 2009 and 2011, according to the Lawyers&rsquo; Committee for Better Housing, which supported the measure. Crime in abandoned buildings and vacant lots has increased nearly 48 percent since 2005, according to the committee.</p><p><em><a href="“http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0”" target="_blank">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="“https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1”" target="_blank">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="“https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud”" target="_blank">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="“https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1”" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="“http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1”" target="_blank">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 05 Jun 2013 14:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/city-council-enacts-%E2%80%98keep-chicago-renting%E2%80%99-ordinance-107553 Twice hit with foreclosure, family looks to proposed renter protections http://www.wbez.org/news/twice-hit-foreclosure-family-looks-proposed-renter-protections-107538 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/HildaQuiloCROP.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 222px; width: 300px;" title="If the Chicago City Council enacts the ordinance Wednesday, Hilda Quilo and her family could keep their home. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />The three-bedroom house where Hilda Quilo and her husband thought they would be raising their three children stands on a quiet, leafy block in Chicago&rsquo;s Logan Square neighborhood.</p><p>They bought the place in 1999. Quilo, 40, said everything was fine until the recession, when her husband&rsquo;s construction work dried up and they couldn&rsquo;t keep up on the mortgage payments.</p><p>&ldquo;We wanted to refinance and we asked the bank to help us,&rdquo; Quilo said in Spanish.</p><p>All they got was an eviction notice. So, after 10 years in the house, the family had to move out.</p><p>It turns out their foreclosure troubles were just beginning. The family went on the rental market and eventually found another house just down the block. They signed a lease in 2010 and, Quilo said, always paid their rent.</p><p>This January, however, the family started getting bank and court notices in the mail. And the landlord went missing. &ldquo;We discovered that this house was in foreclosure too,&rdquo; Quilo said.</p><p>This time, Quilo and the rest of the family were even more helpless because they were just renters. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re expecting an eviction notice,&rdquo; Quilo said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s an uncertainty that keeps me from sleeping.&rdquo;</p><p>The Quilos are not the first Chicago family to be hit twice by the foreclosure crisis, tenant advocates say. &ldquo;Hilda&rsquo;s story is a common experience for many people who go from being a homeowner to a tenant,&rdquo; said Marcelo Ferrer, foreclosure-prevention director of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Trausch.jpg" style="float: right; height: 259px; width: 250px;" title="James E. Trausch, general counsel of the Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association, calls the measure ‘a backdoor attempt at rent control.’ (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />When landlords face foreclosure, renters like the Quilos need some extra help, Ferrer said. &ldquo;It can&rsquo;t just be one person versus the bank.&rdquo;</p><p>The help Ferrer has in mind is <a href="http://chicago.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1156573&amp;GUID=4F709387-96EE-4BD0-9950-C692DE714378&amp;Options=Advanced&amp;Search=" target="_blank">Keep Chicago Renting</a>, a proposed ordinance the City Council could approve Wednesday. The measure would require a bank that forecloses on a rental building to let the tenants stay, and to cap the rent, until selling the property. As an alternative, the bank could pay the tenants a relocation fee of $10,600 per unit.</p><p>An earlier version of the proposal, introduced by Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) last July, would have banned post-foreclosure evictions outright except under narrow circumstances such as failure to pay rent.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration helped develop the current version and says the measure would keep such units occupied.</p><p>Mell agrees. &ldquo;All I want is the banks to say, &lsquo;Hey, let&rsquo;s figure out how we&rsquo;re going to take some haircuts on some of these properties and put them back on the market, not just sit on it.&rsquo; &rdquo; the alderman said during a hearing on the measure last month.</p><p>The implications are huge. A <a href="http://lcbh.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/LCBH-Three-Year-Impact-Assessment-Apartment-Building-Foreclosures-and-the-Depletion-of-Rental-Housing-in-Chicago.pdf" target="_blank">study by the Lawyers&rsquo; Committee for Better Housing</a>, another backer of the legislation, found almost 52,000 Chicago rental units went into foreclosure between 2009 and 2011.</p><p>But banks, landlords and realtors are trying to put brakes on the measure. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s a backdoor attempt at rent control,&rdquo; said James E. Trausch, general counsel of the Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association, pointing to an <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=748&amp;ChapterID=11" target="_blank">Illinois statute that prohibits</a> local governments from setting up rent control.</p><p>The proposed ordinance would also discourage lending in the city, Trausch said. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s always a bad thing. The [fewer] lenders you have loaning money, the less competition they have to offer the best rates.&rdquo;</p><p>Asked what he would tell renters such as Hilda Quilo, Trausch does not hesitate.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;d say, pick her landlords better,&rdquo; Trausch answered. &ldquo;A tenant who wants to rent a unit can go into the public records and see if there has been a foreclosure filed. And foreclosures take two years so you have ample notice that you shouldn&rsquo;t be renting this property.&rdquo;</p><p>That advice is cold comfort for the Quilo family.</p><p>&ldquo;My kids have grown up on this block,&rdquo; Quilo said. And that&rsquo;s where she wants them to stay. So she&rsquo;s planning to be at Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting.</p><p>Quilo said the outcome could keep her family from losing its home again because of foreclosure.</p><p><em><a href="“http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0”" target="_blank">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="“https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1”" target="_blank">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="“https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud”" target="_blank">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="“https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1”" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="“http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1”" target="_blank">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 05 Jun 2013 07:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/twice-hit-foreclosure-family-looks-proposed-renter-protections-107538