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Thousands of Chicago Homes for Druggies, Rapists and Gang-Bangers

Taxpayers have spent tens of millions on Chicago's derelict homes in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. But in Chicago Lawn, one house has been reclaimed. Can there be more?

The two-flat at 6210 S. Fairfield Ave. in Chicago Lawn. | Photo by Michelle Kanaar / The Chicago Reporter
The two-flat at 6210 S. Fairfield Ave. in Chicago Lawn. | Photo by Michelle Kanaar / The Chicago Reporter

More than 18,000 houses and apartment buildings throughout the city of Chicago have been abandoned, victims of a mortgage crisis that morphed into a plague of derelict housing.

If all of those vacant houses and apartments stood together, they'd rival one of Chicago's mid-sized suburbs in the number of rooftops — an Orland Park, a Wheaton, an Oak Park.

Imagine an entire village left to scrappers, gang-bangers, druggies and predators.

On Chicago's South Side, there's no need to imagine. Year after year, in the wake of the subprime lending crisis, a festering blight crept up on Chicago Lawn and now threatens to send it the way of the city's most troubled neighborhoods.  

The Chicago Reporter offers a deep look at the problem and tells the story of one house, a long-abandoned two-flat at 6210 South Fairfield Avenue that represents everything gone wrong here, from the banks and City Hall to this block and every other one like it in the city.

» Watch Chicago's vacancy epidemic spread from 2008 to 2013 in a graphic by The Chicago Reporter

Staring at 6210 South Fairfield, Andrew Durden says: "There was people coming in and out of there every day. ... They were drinking, drugging, living, sexing, gang-banging and probably raping girls in there."

Indeed, the rape of a young girl in the middle of the day outside of that house would move the neighborhood to stake a claim on the property and hold someone accountable.

The enormity of the city's problem, according to The Chicago Reporter, and its cost to Chicago taxpayers staggers the mind:

  • of the 18,000 vacant single-family homes and apartment buildings, half have been empty for at least three years
  • 6,000 are in the midst of a foreclosure process that can last more than 800 days
  • these properties account for 1,100 housing court cases the last two years
  • taxpayers have spent $36 million over three years to board up or demolish abandoned homes
  • only $453,000 has been recouped by the city from the banks and investors that hold papers on these properties

Father "Tony" Pizzo, pastor at St. Rita of Cascia Catholic Church, worries about the children who pass by these houses on their way to school.

"It's hard for me to drive through my own neighborhood because I see these boarded-up houses," the priest says. "I think, 'Oh, God, this is where my people live.'"

He knew something had to be done. And so the good people who dwell on South Fairfield Avenue in Chicago Lawn came together and set out to reclaim the house at 6210 — and maybe, eventually, their entire neighborhood.

Many questions arise out of their four-year struggle:

  • Why is it so difficult to get a response from the banks and investors?
  • Why won't the city go after the banks?
  • Why can't more vacant homes be pulled from legal and financial limbo?
The Chicago Reporter addresses these questions and more in "Reclaiming the Avenue," an in-depth report by Angela Caputo

swimmer May 18, 2014 at 09:23 AM
The banks, as the owners, have the responsibility to keep up the homes. Don't blame the dems for the foreclosure crisis. Blame banks and greedy mortgage co and people who over estimated whst they could afford.
dave bird May 18, 2014 at 10:03 AM
I built houses on the west side for the church so people could own a home,i would go back in less than a year and the houses were trashed.if you don't care about yourself or your hood than you deserve what you get and more.never will I ever help any of you and your bullshit church TAKE TAKE TAKE F$*K you
Rev May 18, 2014 at 01:19 PM
I moved to Chicago Lawn/Marquette Park when I was 18 from ANOTHER Chicago neighborhood that once thrived yet turned to blight & lived there for over 30 years until this neighborhood turned to blight. The block I lived on looked very much like the one pictured on South Fairfield Avenue--right now 3/4 of both sides of the block I had lived on are vacant due to fires, abandonment, & businesses that could no longer thrive. Marquette Park's foreclosure crisis began around 2004, when infamous predator lenders that were given to you AFTER you were already paying your mortgage to someone else would double your mortgage in a scheme to force you out to make money from you. In other words, your own bank would sell you out & sell your mortgage to someone else who were essentially crooks. Even with a decent steady job, banks & even the bankruptcy process did not help you as everyone stood in line to get a piece of the pie from the proceeds of your house. The Attorney General had stepped in eventually, but the damage had already been done; it's called destroying lives and in turn destroys neighborhoods due to the greed. Banks always say they're not in the business to own houses, but they will be the first to take your home away from you.
Karen M. Bushy May 18, 2014 at 02:18 PM
And when they file a foreclosure with the courts they are under no obligation to even let you know that they have done so - - - so all of a sudden, you don't own your house anymore! Instead of them talking with you first, and then, when they feel they MUST go to foreclosure - how about letting the person even KNOW IT?????
Rev May 19, 2014 at 12:28 PM
That's why typically the foreclosure process is NOT 800 days like the above article indicated--that's about 2 years that a person doesn't know what's going on. Payments aren't accepted immediately after the so-called problem of which you weren't even aware there was a problem as they made it a problem in order to scam. They took checks & didn't return them. During the beginning of this crisis, which dates back much earlier than the article indicated, there were no phone calls either from people who bought your loan & when attempts were made to speak with them, you got nowhere & had to secure a lawyer that didn't help you either. It was planned that way so they could make money from you. They purposely did not work w/you in order to seize the property.

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