Thursday evening, Nov. 13, 2008 at the Levy Center, Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) and Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) hosted a free community forum on the related issues of affordable housing and home foreclosure. Speakers from the various Evanston "CHDOs" (Community Home Development Organizations) presented some of the options for persons looking for affordable housing in Evanston. Advice and lists of resources for dealing with foreclosure were also provided by a representative of the Cook County Assessor's Office, the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago's Home Ownership Preservation Project, and the Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs.
While some attendees were interested in how to get into housing, and others were more concerned with not losing what they had, the issues are linked, in that in both cases the lack, or threatened loss, of adequate housing is related to inadequate income, bad credit, or both. An important message from all presenters was that options are available, both for those seeking and those trying to preserve homes, and that in either case seeking counseling from an organization such as CEDA or Interfaith can help a resident or would-be resident organize their resources and map a strategy. Especially in communities in which utilization of legal or banking resources is lower than average, a comfort level with sometimes-intimidating paperwork and processes can make a huge difference.
The weekend before the election, I was canvassing a neighborhood in St. Louis where foreclosures and even abandonment of housing were rampant; that experience underscored for me how fragile residency can be in uncertain economic times. Incredibly, some economists continue to debate whether we are technically in a recession, while for many communities and populations, what we've been experiencing for a year or more is closer to a depression.
Last week I counted two dozen properties in the Evanston Review that were not just in foreclosure, but had judgments and were proceeding to judicial sale. This problem is not confined to just some communities; most of the subprime mortgages did not go to low-income borrowers, and two of the judicial sales I saw were in 807 Davis, otherwise known as The Residences of Sherman Plaza.
The two aldermen who hosted the event deserve recognition for doing so, and for staying the entirety of the event to become even more educated themselves. I don't think I saw any mayoral candidates or media in attendance, altho I'd love to be corrected on that.