More than 35,000 homes and small multifamily buildings in the Chicago area completed the foreclosure process last year, the highest number since the housing crisis began, and the vast majority of them became bank-owned.
An increase in foreclosure auctions was expected since lenders shelved many foreclosure cases while state and federal authorities investigated allegations of faulty foreclosure processes. Still, the heightened level of auctions — 35,244 in 2012, compared with 20,281 in 2011 — along with an increase in initial foreclosure filings, shows the local housing market has a long road to recovery, according to the Woodstock Institute.
"There's going to be pain in the housing market in the short term," said Katie Buitrago, senior policy and communications associate at Woodstock. "There's still high levels of filings. Five years into it, there is still work to be done to help people save their homes."
The Chicago-based public policy and research group is expected to release its report on 2012 foreclosure activity Wednesday.
The year-end numbers show that, with few exceptions, all Chicago neighborhoods and suburban communities saw high double-digit percentage gains in auctions last year. Across the six-county area, 91.3 percent of the foreclosed properties were repossessed by lenders. At the same time, notices of initial default sent to homeowners, the first step in the foreclosure process, increased by 2.9 percent last year, to 66,783.
Real estate agents have worried for more than two years about a glut of foreclosed properties — a shadow inventory — that banks would list for sale en masse and cause home values to plunge. That largely has not happened, but the vast number of distressed properties in the market has kept a lid on local home values.
Chicago-area home prices, including distressed sales, fell 2.3 percent in December from a year ago, housing analytics firm CoreLogic said Tuesday. Illinois was one of only four states to see home-price depreciation.
The increase in auctions "is a mixed blessing," Buitrago said. "We've been having a lot of trouble in the region with vacant properties that have been languishing for years. The longer they're vacant, the more likely they are to be a destabilizing force in their communities."
Woodstock found that within the city of Chicago, there were 20 communities where more than 1 in 10 owner-occupied one- to four-unit residential buildings and condos went through foreclosure from 2008 to 2012. Five of those neighborhoods are included in the city's 18-month-old Micro-Market Recovery Program, a coordinated effort to stabilize neighborhoods and property values hit hard by foreclosures and vacant buildings.
Also designed to benefit hard-hit areas are the recent establishment of a Cook County Land Bank and legislation waiting for Gov. Pat Quinn's signature that will fast-track the foreclosure process for vacant, abandoned homes while providing financial resources to foreclosure prevention efforts.