Nearly one in every six Cook County foreclosures last year were on small apartment buildings, endangering the leases of thousands of renters, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis of foreclosure filings.

Ninety-six percent of the buildings from which people were evicted or threatened with eviction were buildings that were reposessed after the foreclosure. When mortgagees, the investors who underwrite a mortgage, repossess two- to six- unit buildings, they usually make the tenants move. The Reporter analyzed records from all of the 27,713 Cook County foreclosures since 2005 and found:

* In 2005, a year before the nation’s foreclosure crisis began, 708 small buildings foreclosed, representing 14 percent of the 5,045 Cook County foreclosures where the property type was known. A year later, when the crisis began, the number of foreclosed small apartment buildings increased by 49 percent. Between 2006 and 2007, a year after the crisis began, the number of small buildings that foreclosed more than doubled to 2,497.

* The city’s predominantly black South and West sides were hardest hit. Of the 11 community areas where more than 100 small apartment buildings foreclosed in 2006 and 2007, all were on the city’s South or West sides.

* Of all Cook County small apartments buildings foreclosed on, 88 percent were located in the City of Chicago.

* Anywhere between 13,000 to 18,300 rental households could have been affected in 2007.

* In black communities, the rate of small-apartment building foreclosures was 20 times higher than the rate in white communities; it was three times higher than the rate in Latino communities.

“My prediction is that this is only gonna go up,” says Richard Wheelock, housing supervisory attorney at the downtown office of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. There are no firm tallies of the number of renters who have been endangered or displaced.

Communities most affected were Englewood, Austin, West Englewood, New City, Humboldt Park and North Lawndale. Six Chicago community areas escaped without a single foreclosed small apartment building in 2006 and 2007. They were: Armour Square, Garfield Ridge, the Loop, Mount Greenwood, the Near South Side and O’Hare.

“Tenants are really getting caught,” says Kathleen Clark, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing. “They are the innocent victims. They can be paid up on their rent and still be kicked out.”

Kelly Virella

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