Features | Housing

Vacant and Abandoned

The housing crisis lives on in the homes it has emptied—and banks aren't taking responsibility

Julie Wu

7322 South Laflin is a brick, two-story apartment building with broken windows and an unlocked front door. It wouldn’t look inhabited save for a few bottles of shampoo visible in one of the windows of the upper floor. It completed foreclosure in June of last year, when, like most foreclosures, it was sold back to the mortgage lender, Selene Finance LP.

A woman who lives nearby says that people still live there (“squatters’ rights”). After the housing crisis, says the woman (she declined to give her name), “people had no place to go so they moved in wherever they could get.” She points to a bullet hole in the basement window just left of the front door.

“Poor people had nothing and they took all their shit.”

“They”—in this case, Selene Finance LP—still haven’t claimed official ownership of the property. That’s because after the auction that completes the foreclosure process, it is incumbent on the new owner of the property to file the deed with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. At the vast majority of foreclosure auctions in Cook County there are no buyers, and the properties go back into the hands of the mortgage lender. But it is not in the lender’s interest to claim ownership of the property until it wants to make a sale. As long as the deed goes unrecorded, the lender that owns the building can avoid property taxes, vacant building regulations and fees, utilities bills, and essentially all accountability for the property.

Continue reading


Unaffordable and Unavailable

Adding up Chicago’s housing crisis

In Chicago, the housing crisis merely aggravated old wounds. Of the ten largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., Chicago ranked second for the greatest racial disparity in high-cost loans—loans with interest rates that the federal government considers substantially higher than the Treasury standard. In 2005, African-American families with an income of $100,000 were more likely to get such loans than white families with incomes under $35,000. Neighborhoods whose populations were already in decline were hit the hardest by foreclosures. Those who have been able to stay in their homes now face the impact of vacant and abandoned properties on their communities.  Continue reading

Activism | Notes | Police

For Mike Brown

Luke White

Had Michael Brown survived the summer, Monday, November 24, would have been a calm, snowy night. It wasn’t. It was a night on which the people of Chicago gathered in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, and made clear that a fundamental problem demands radical justice.

Notes | Police | Politics

The CPD Index

Last Thursday, CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy faced questions from aldermen as part of the city’s annual budget hearings. The Weekly was there to take notice.


Voting to Be Heard

As Republicans court the black vote, South Side pastors endorse to send a message

Rick Majewski

On August 8, as the Republican National Committee concluded its three-day summer meeting in Chicago, Paul Ryan sounded the new message of the Republican Party. “We have to go to corners of the country that are not used to seeing us,” he told his fellow party leaders. Continue reading

Englewood | Food

Kusanya, One Year In

Courtesy of Kusanya

Kusanya Cafe had been brewing as an idea in Englewood long before it served its first cup. For five years its board of directors struggled to find financing or an affordable space for the proposed café. It finally opened last November, to appreciative, even glowing reviews, but the café has always aimed to be more than a coffee shop. It’s an idealistic place, with hopes of neighborhood empowerment, but one that knows the limits of its resources. Kusanya wants first to be a place where people can meet over coffee, within the neighborhood, and to see where things go from there. Before the café took over the previously vacant, hundred-year-old building at 825 W. 69th Street, that was something Englewood didn’t have. And Phil Sipka, who runs the café’s operations, says it’s still hard to picture how a for-profit café in Englewood could work—Kusanya is a 501(c)(3). I sat down with Sipka to talk about Kusanya’s vision for the neighborhood, who’s behind it, and how it’s panning out.  Continue reading