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Editorial: If foreclosure crisis hits home, help may be there – Chicago Sun

Editorials

March 29, 2012 7:04PM

A foreclosed home is boarded up last year in Waukegan. | SUN-TIMES MEDIA


Updated: March 30, 2012 4:56AM

Regina Bailey is the face of too many stories in Illinois.

Her two-income family was doing fine until a decade ago, until her son died of leukemia, leaving behind a pile of medical bills. Then, five years ago, her husband died of a ruptured appendix. More medical bills.

The final blow came about a year ago, when Bailey was laid off from her job as lab tech at Elmhurst Hospital. She started to worry she would lose the bungalow in Belmont Cragin where she lives with her daughter and granddaughter.

Last week, though, Bailey got a lifeline. She was accepted into an Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network program that will get her mortgage current and help her pay it for the next 11 months.

“They gave me a way out when I thought I was at the bottom of the pit,” Bailey said. “When you hit the bottom, you wonder: How did I get here?”

Chicago — where 97,000 homes were bank-owned or in some state of foreclosure last year — has the second-highest foreclosure rate in the nation. Statewide, more than 103,000 homes had a foreclosure filing in 2011, the eighth-highest rate in the country. But things may have started to turn around.

† Using a chunk of $446 million from the federal government, Illinois launched its “hardest hit” program last September. This program has two parts: reinstatement, a one-time payment that wipes out arrears, fees and penalties; and monthly mortgage assistance. Its website is www.illinoishardesthit.org, and its help line is (855) 873-7405.

† Eligibility was expanded in October for the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program, which helps homeowners get refinancing. Eligibility was expanded in January for the similar federal Home Affordable Modification Program .

† The state has a settlement with five major loan servicers for $1.1 billion that is awaiting approval in court. Of that, $660 million will be dedicated to loan modifications.

Taking those together, “we have about $2 billion,” said Mary R. Kenney, executive direction of the Illinois Housing Development Authority, which is spearheading the state’s foreclosure programs.

Critics worry about a “moral hazard,” a risk that aid encourages people to stiff the bank while their neighbors pay up. But Kenney said the people who can’t keep up their payments today are mostly those whose income has cratered.

Also keeping homes occupied protects neighborhood value, she said.

IHDA will hold a series of free public programs with “one-stop shopping,” where homeowners — who don’t have to be “underwater” or in foreclosure — can get legal advice, mortgage assistance, one-on-one meetings with loan servicers and advice on how to avoid mortgage fraud. The first one is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Morton West High School, 2400 Home Avenue, Berwyn.

Bailey will be there to talk about her story. She hopes others who are struggling will be there, too.

Article source: http://www.suntimes.com/opinions/11578267-474/editorial-if-foreclosure-crisis-hits-home-help-may-be-there.html

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