By Anna Lothson
Foreclosure filings in Oak Park are holding steady compared with last year's numbers, but the number of auctions, i.e. homes sold in foreclosure, have more than doubled in a year's time, according to village data.
Tammie Grossman, housing program manager for the village, said that at the end of July 2011, the number of foreclosed homes was 206. This year, the number dropped by one.
"In terms of new filings, we're at the exact place we were last year," she said, noting that it's hard to predict how the rest of the year will go. Grossman said they haven't tracked trends to know if a particular time of year spurs more foreclosures.
While the number of foreclosures remains steady, foreclosure sales from that same time in 2011 tallied 61. This year's numbers exploded to 149. Grossman said it's hard to say what sparked the increased sales, but the lag between how long a foreclosed home sits on the market and when it's sold could contribute to the spike.
Grossman said the ability of the village to get involved during the foreclosure process is limited because a number of steps are involved before a bank takes full ownership. The homeowner may mount a defense to try to save the home, and even when the bank takes over, the auction process takes time to establish.
Under Illinois state law, banks are required to inform the village when it takes over a property. The village also subscribes to a service that provides monthly updates about foreclosure numbers.
Cook County's foreclosure numbers for all properties have risen about 3.4 percent in the first half of 2012 from the same time period in 2011, according to data released by the Woodstock Institute, a nonprofit research and policy organization that tracks housing numbers.
Those numbers differ dramatically throughout Cook County, however. North Cook Country, for example, saw a 10 percent decrease during that time, whereas West Cook County had a 10 percent increase. According to the data, 22,365 properties went into foreclosure during the first half of 2012, which is up by 742 properties from last year.
From late 2010, the numbers in Chicago's six-county region continued to dip until the end of 2011 and have since risen, the data reveals. Oak Park's stable foreclosure filings and the rise in auctions follows trends seen across the region.
Oak Park, along with many other municipalities, implemented a vacant property ordinance, to address the problems often associated with foreclosed homes. Oak Park's ordinance allows the village to fine the property owner, whether it's the homeowner or the bank, for having an unkempt home and yard.
A majority of the foreclosed homes are sold at auction, Grossman said. A number of other properties are sold as a "short sale," in which a property not in foreclosure is purchased for less than the property owner owes. She said this option is not as typical, though, because the bank has to cover the remaining debt.
Spencer Cowan, vice president of the Woodstock Institute, said the numbers across the region are encouraging since foreclosure rates are stable and properties are being sold. Concerns, however, remain about particular areas that were hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis.
Regional data does not tell whole story," he said. According to the data, many counties that reflect positive numbers have pockets of neighborhoods that still suffer. "Recovery is not widespread across communities," Cowan said.
When asked if the numbers in Oak Park were typical, Grossman said the unstable housing market trends have made it hard for anyone to predict.
"I don't know what's typical in this market," she said.