Cook County foreclosure rate still rising

New numbers released yesterday show that foreclosures rose 35 percent in 2008, according Cook County Clerk, Dorothy Brown.

Over 43,000 new foreclosures were filed last year, says Brown. That's up 338 percent from 10 years ago.

"That statistic is alarming and a critical indicator of just how dire our country's financial crisis is," says Brown.

Neighborhood housing advocates say the crisis is far from over.

"I think this is the first wave of what is going to be two or three more waves," says Brian White, executive director of Lakeside Community Development Corporation. "I don't think we're going to have a quick turnaround."

The market may not stabilize for five to six years, according to White, especially because a whole slew of homeowners were signing adjustable rate mortgages through 2007. When the rates on those loans increase, White says we'll see another rush of foreclosure filings.

He also thinks the city isn't doing enough to address the crisis on a local level. He wants to see city and county hearings on the crisis and the number of subsequent problems it's causing, like blight, depression and homelessness.

"Policy makers need to sit down and talk about how to get two or three steps ahead of this issue," says White. "I think policy makers just don't get it, and the banks have been allowed to get away murder by hoarding capital."

Other advocates agree that money from the bank bailout isn't reaching foreclosed homeowners.

"I don't see it trickling down to these families," says Emilio Carrasquillo, director of Neighborhood Housing Services in Back of the Yards.

But Carrasquillo says the city is working on the problem and trying to stabilize neighborhoods.

"The city is reaching out," says Carrasquillo. "They don't want to see any more boarded up homes."

He says a lot of home and property owners don't know what resources are available to help them.

Many his clients come to him after being lured into loan modification schemes, paying $1,500 to $3,000 for empty promises of their rates being reduced.He says many of these operations are run by the same brokers who created these troublesome loans in the first place.

"I think it's just a matter of letting people know what resources are out there," says Carrasquillo, who urges people to use the list of certified agencies on the Department of Housing and Urban Development website.

But with the steady flow of people coming into his South side office, he agrees we haven't seen yet seen the end of the foreclosure crisis.

"I think we're smack in the middle of it," says Carrasquillo.

Staff Writer Megan Cottrell covers housing for the Daily News. She can be reached at 773-362-5002, ext. 12.