Chicago Housing Crisis Solutions: Eminent Domain and Liberated Homes

The city of Chicago has come to an impasse regarding the housing crisis. Over 45,000 homes have been foreclosed since the market failed in 2007 and many continue to go under. These empty homes are such blights on communities that Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans on spending four million dollars to start the process of tearing some of them down. Yet, is that really a long term solution that benefits the community?  In this city, there are talks of two ways to deal with the foreclosure problems. One is led by the government and helps stop more foreclosures from happening. The other is led by the people and is a way to take foreclosed homes back. The two complement each other well.

Under the government created plan, originally from San Francisco, the city of Chicago would take money from private investors and buy mortgages of homes that are currently underwater, or mortgages that exceed the value of the homes they are attached to. They would then take the mortgages and pay a discounted price for them. The city would refinance the mortgages and lower the homeowners’ monthly payments. Not every mortgage or homeowner qualifies, but the implementation of such a program would still help many Chicagoans struggling to make payments. This process is called eminent domain, a right of the government, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has publicly stated that he does not see it as the solution to the Chicago housing crisis.

Yet, Rahm has not proposed a counter plan, which means the flow of foreclosed homes in Chicago will continue and more people will be left out on the streets. That is unless a group of citizens, located primarily on Chicago’s south side, fail to continue to have success liberating houses.

The liberation movement is composed of organizations fighting to see how many homes they can remove from under the banks’ control. These homes are in turn opened for homeless families, particularly those made up of single women with children. There’s no official count of liberated houses in Chicago, but the lowest estimate puts the number at a minimum of 25 free houses and a maximum of 50. Unlike the Occupy movement, the liberation movement has very specific goals outlined, which makes it harder to criticize for having a lack of clarity and purpose. They know exactly what they want and are out there fighting to get it, and Chicagoans should be getting behind them.

Mayor Emanuel’s proposed plan to tear down the houses only attacks the surface of the problem. The real problem lies in that banks are not willing to refinance underwater mortgages, which leads to a perpetual cycle of foreclosed homes and more people without homes.  These houses stay foreclosed, since in this economy no one can afford to buy them, and the banks cannot do anything else with them. They rot away without use from either people or banks. It is time for people to reclaim the now dilapidated homes that were once owned by members of their community, and use them to help those members of the community that are most in need. The solutions to the housing crisis lie in keeping people in their homes and helping people get back into housing not a plastic surgery option to remove blemishes from the neighborhood.

Official link here http://www.chicagonow.com/poli-chi/2012/08/eminent-domain-an-liberated/.


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