Cook County Residents Ask Preckwinkle, Dart For Foreclosure Eviction Moratorium
Monday, August 13, 2012
by Steven Ross Johnson
Homeowners and tenants frustrated by the impending threat of foreclosure called on county leaders to put in place a one year-stay on evictions.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle along with Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart met with a crowd of more than 100 residents at a community meeting held Thursday on the city's near West Side. Organizers said the event was intended to give individuals the opportunity to tell officials their own experiences with facing the threat of losing their homes, and to explain how delaying the eviction process could provide some with much-needed — albeit temporary — relief.
"We don't come here on our knees begging for a handout," said Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an organizer for the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, which held the event. "We come here as fighters for the human right to housing."
In addition to the one-year moratorium, the group called on Dart and Preckwinkle to take part in a tour of neighborhoods that have been heavily affected by foreclosure as well as form a task force that would examine the eviction process in Cook County.
Although sympathetic, neither official would commit to any of the group's demands, with Preckwinkle saying the issue was not one in which her office could do much in the way of providing help.
"The main business of the county is not housing, unlike when I was alderman for 20 years," Preckwinkle said. "The main business of the county is health care and the criminal justice system."
Here's more from Preckwinkle as she talks about the impact the rising number of foreclosures have had on residents as well as county coffers:
Dart expressed his own frustration at the lack of support he has received regarding his efforts to stop evictions that exhibit possible discrepancies or outright fraud by lending companies.
During his time as sheriff, Dart has ordered a moratorium on evictions on two separate occasions. As Progress Illinois reported in May, the first instance occurred in 2008 and lasted until January 2010. The second time began later that year in October, but ended after one month at the order of Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.
"When the robo-signing was going on I stopped all the foreclosures a second time - the first in the country to do that," Dart told the crowd. "When I did that though, it was brought to my attention rather quickly that I was no longer going to be supported in my actions."
Here's more from Dart as he talked about what his office has done to provide some assistance to residents facing foreclosure:
The number of foreclosure filings within the Chicago area rose by 35 percent in the month of July to more than 12,683, compared to 9,395 the same time last year, as we have reported.
Nationwide the foreclosure rate was down more than 9 percent in July compared to 2011, according to real estate research firm RealtyTrac, which listed Illinois along with California, Arizona, Florida and New Jersey as states with the highest foreclosure rates in the country.
Increased foreclosure activity within the Chicago area has been due in part to a resurgence of filings by lenders, which had slowed down in recent years as several mortgage companies were under investigation by local, state and federal authorities for allegedly engaging in illegal foreclosure practices. In February, a deal was reached that required five of the country's largest mortgage lenders to give $25 billion to 49 states in order to help lower the principal on mortgage loans. Of that settlement, Illinois received $1.5 billion.