Monday, February 23, 2009

Foreclosures spur neighborhood ghost towns

The children who live on West Wilcox Street won't go out at night for fear of 12 vacant graystones that draw criminals to their block. In Rogers Park, a half-empty 39-unit condo building on Farwell Avenue has become a hide-out for squatters and feral cats.

Two streets that have little in common—Wilcox on the West Side and Farwell on the North— illustrate the latest chapter of the housing crisis: a surge in vacant homes that is sinking property values and blighting swaths of the city.

As foreclosures soar to historic levels, the infection has spread beyond places of perennial concern, such as West Garfield Park and Englewood.

Condo ghost towns replete with granite and stainless steel have emerged on stretches of the North Side, leaving a pox of hollow buildings dotting the landscape.

"We're kind of in an unprecedented moment," said Philip Ashton, an assistant professor of urban planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "A lot of the research that is on the table relates to a completely different world."

In the past when banks auctioned off foreclosed homes, buyers lined up to snatch real estate at bargain prices. But given the states of the housing and credit markets, almost 99 percent of homes lost to foreclosure in 2008 went back to lenders—a total value of $1.9 billion in Chicago, according to data provided by the Woodstock Institute, a Chicago-based think tank.
You can read the Roger's Park take on this story over at the Broken Heart! This current economy is a mess!

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