The Village of Oak Park has not been spared the economic impact created by the sudden and precipitous decline of the housing market. However, the village has not been a spectator of events but actually has taken several steps to monitor foreclosed and vacant properties and prevent deterioration of neighborhoods.

A subscription to a Web-based service allows the village to track all foreclosure filings and subsequent foreclosure sales. Staff also is monitoring all vacant property through a new ordinance that requires owners to develop a plan of action, with a time schedule, identifying the date the building will be habitable and occupied or offered for occupancy or sale. The ordinance also requires mortgage lenders to register all unoccupied buildings with the building and property standards department within 15 days of obtaining title to the property.

The village’s Neighborhood Walk program continues to monitor buildings throughout the village, identifying those in need of repair and notifying owners. Of course, the best way for the village to identify problem buildings continues to be members of the community letting us know when they see buildings in need of attention.

Recognizing that solutions may require efforts that reach beyond borders and jurisdictions, the village is working with neighboring communities and housing partners, such as Oak Park Residence Corporation and the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, to obtain federal funding to address problem buildings in foreclosure.

For residents who may have fallen on hard times and are having difficulty maintaining their homes, the village also has a single-family rehab program that provides loans to income-eligible residents to enable them to make needed repairs – especially those related to building code violations and basic safety issues. Interested residents should contact the housing programs division at 708-358-5410 for more information.

The good news is that the Village of Oak Park was not hit as hard as neighboring communities by the foreclosure problem. The number of foreclosure filings also has decreased by about 25 percent so far in 2009, as compared to last year. In 2008, there were approximately 225 foreclosures in the village. Hopefully, we will continue to experience a downward trend throughout 2009 and beyond.

While the economic future is far from certain, the commitment of village government to maintaining the quality of our community’s housing stock is not. We will continue to work diligently to identify and allocate the resources necessary to maintain the high quality housing that has made Oak Park such a great place to live and raise families.

Tammie Grossman is the housing programs manager for the Village of Oak Park.

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