TOPIC: Dept. of Housing & Urban Development

Name that loan modification program: government must do more to market mortgage aid

Four years after the housing bubble burst, all levels of government are getting their bearings in addressing the foreclosure crisis. A mix of programs are either being started or revived that might actually address specific payment problems homeowners face.

Illinois announced on Friday that it will use $100 million in federal money to start a Mortgage Resolution Fund, where a public-private partnership will buy “underwater mortgages” — those where delinquent payments are worth more than the mortgage itself — from homeowners in the Chicago area. (more…)

Second city #1 in foreclosed homes

The Chicago metropolitan area has the largest inventory of foreclosed homes in the country, according to the California company RealtyTrac.  Bridget O’Shea and James O’Shea of the Chicago News Cooperative report that the large number of foreclosed homes is, ironically, due in significant part to the legal safeguards Illinois has on the foreclosure process: homes sit in limbo instead of immediately being taken over and resold by banks. This might be part of the explanation, but a bigger problem seems to be the failure of the Obama administration’s foreclosure prevention policies. (more…)

Panic City

In Chicago and across the U.S., crime is down.  Why don’t people want to admit it?

According to all available statistics, violent crime has significantly dropped in Chicago and across the country over the last 20 years.

FBI statistics say there were 931 homicides in the city of Chicago in 1993. By 2000, there were just 628 murders – and by 2010 that number was down to 435. In fact, the murder rate in Chicago last year was the lowest it has been since 1965.

This is a national trend. (more…)

Preventive journalism target: “When Warnings Don’t Work” and why

Henry Fountain took a look at tornadoes in the New York Times this past weekend and concluded that . . . tornadoes are dangerous.  They kill about 60 people every year and cause millions of dollars in damage.  Even if tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters end up creating jobs, there are certainly better ways to invest money.

If a tornado hits a major town or city, the damage is going to be extensive — no matter what.  But the average number of fatalities has been rising, and (more…)

Robo-signing investigation presses on

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris have subpoenaed two companies, Lender Processing Services and Nationwide Title Clearing, that helped mortgage servicers manage home loans, reports Ruth Simon and Nick Timaros of the Wall Street Journal. The subpoenas signal expanding the state attorneys general investigation into mortgage servicers who “robo-signed” documents that put homeowners into foreclosure.

The scandal erupted last fall, triggering a joint investigation by 49 states attorneys. The U.S. Justice Department and Housing and Urban Development have largely stayed on the sidelines, but the Journal reports that federal agencies could also make claims against robo-signing banks.

Is HUD government at its worst?

The scariest thing about the Washington Post’s hard-hitting series about wasted money and disappearing projects at the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development is not the content of the articles.  HUD has been mismanaged, on and off, for a long time. What’s scary is that it took the Washington Post to run this investigation.  Where was HUD when HUD was falling down on the job? (more…)

Wells Fargo and foreclosures: There really is no place like home

Underwater homeowners facing foreclosure despite promises of federal aid disrupted a  meeting of Wells Fargo Bank shareholders in San Francisco yesterday, reports Aaron Glantz of The Bay Citizen.

Demonstrators called on the firm, a recipient of emergency taxpayer aid during the financial crisis, to institute a foreclosure moratorium. Eight were eventually arrested after refusing to leave the building. (more…)

How federal budget agreement plays in Peoria

A group of community service agencies are traveling across Illinois to protest federal budget cuts for social service programs proposed in the 2012 budget. These potential cuts are in addition to cuts already in the last-second FY2011 budget (like cuts in housing counseling). Can community service agencies achieve grassroots support for government spending much like the Tea Party riled up voters against spending?

About 60 people associated with community service agencies went to Rockford and Waukegan Tuesday, and Peoria Monday. (more…)

Federal cuts hit Chicago housing assistance groups

As part of this year’s last-minute federal budget agreement, U.S. Housing & Urban Development lost $89 million in housing counseling funds. The Chicago Tribune’s Mary Ellen Podmolik reports on the impact this could have on the Chicago area.  For starters, fewer social service organizations will have the resources to provide counseling to distressed homeowners trying to avoid mortgage relief scams.  And some foreclosure prevention and rental counseling programs previously offered free will now cost money. “Losing $35,000 is a big hit for us,” Brian White, executive director of the Lakeside Community Development tells Podmolik. “You’re cutting out muscle and bone instead of fat.” That can be said generally of the budget agreement’s focus on domestic discretionary spending, while leaving entitlement and military spending largely intact.

Plan for reduced public assistance

Cabrini Green

In the 1990′s, U.S. Housing & Urban Development and the Chicago Housing Authority, the city’s public housing agency, put together a “Plan for Transformation” in Chicago’s public housing. CHA released a disturbing audit Thursday, reported on by the Chicago Tribune’s Dahleen Glanton and Jeremy Gorner, that during the plan thousands of poor families have slipped through the cracks. The city has either not had the federal money, local wherewithal, or luck with the housing market to move beyond a history of failed public housing policies.

The Bill Clinton administration took over CHA 1995 and over the next five years worked with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley on repairing public housing projects that earned a national reputation for urban despair and danger. (more…)