The Woodstock Institute, a non-profit research and policy organization, issued a report on Feb. 4, concluding that government interventions have had a limited impact on curbing foreclosures in the Chicago area in 2009. “New foreclosure filings in the Chicago six county region increased to over 70,000 in 2009, up 21 percent from 2008,” says the report. The North and Northwest Suburban Cook County and Kane County regions had the “most rapid rate of growth in foreclosure filings.” 

In Evanston, the number of foreclosure filings in the last four years are 121 in 2006, 179 in 2007, 267 in 2008, and 336 in 2009, according to the report. Foreclosure filings increased by 178 percent between 2006 and 2009. 

The report says that the number of foreclosure actions in the region that resulted in auction sales of the property remained fairly stable between 2006 and 2009, but it concludes that the number of auctions will likely increase dramatically when restrictions on completing certain foreclosures expire on Jan. 31. 

The report raises one concern that lenders have begun to delay advancing foreclosure cases to auction in distressed neighborhoods where a quick sale to a third party purchaser is less likely. Delaying the resolution of a foreclosure case may a “destabilizing effect” on a neighborhood if the property being foreclosed is unoccupied “because there is no clear entity responsible for their management,” says the report.   

In Evanston, there were 104 foreclosure auctions in 2008, with lenders acquiring the property at auction in 101 of the cases. In 2009, there were 111 foreclosure filings, with lenders acquiring the property in 105 of the cases. 

Woodstock’s  report says foreclosures will remain a significant issue in the Chicago area as long as unemployment remains high and the number of homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth remains high. 

According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Evanston’s unemployment rate in December 2009 was 7.4 percent, up from 4.6 percent in December 2008. 

On Jan. 14, the Department of Housing and Urban Development approved a grant of $18 million to the City of Evanston for neighborhood stabilization funds. In its grant application – which sought $41 million – the City proposed to purchase and rehab 108 foreclosed properties in the Fifth and Eighth wards, on the City’s west and south sides, respectively, returning them to the market for sale or rent at affordable rates. The City also proposed to create “Emerson Square” with rental and for sale homes with a variety of building types, along Emerson Street.