More than 200 people attended a town hall meeting Saturday on foreclosure prevention, which discussed different steps homeowners can take to prevent losing their homes. Cong. Danny Davis (7th Dist.) and State Rep. LaShawn Ford (8th) sponsored the event this past Saturday at the Austin Senior Wellness Center, 5071 W. Congress.

“We’re trying to educate homeowners and consumers to be as wise as they can be,” said Davis. “That is the first line of defense. Even if we can’t change [the banking industry], education is a big piece of it, and at the same time we will search for legislation to guard against this.”

Part of the education is overcoming the stigma attached to foreclosure. As a result, many homeowners suffer in silence, said Tumia Romero, director of public policy and programs for Cong. Davis.

“There’s a stigma related. People don’t want folks to know they’re in foreclosure,” Romero said. “Can you imagine paying 20 years on your home, then you can’t keep up with the payments, and you don’t know what to do? There are things you can do. People just don’t know.” They’re more likely to attend an open meeting and listen, Romero noted.

The town hall was set-up to allow the sharing of information, where homeowners could speak one-on-one with advocates or contact them at a later date for more privacy.

Currently, the Austin community has one of the highest rates of foreclosure in the City of Chicago, with an increase of 30.5 percent from 2005 to 2006 and an estimated increase of 65 percent from 1993 to 2006. During this same period, the city saw an overall surge of 42.7 percent in foreclosures. Other hard-hit areas were West Garfield Park with a 63.7-percent jump; East Garfield Park saw a 74.7-percent rise and North Lawndale sustained a 40-percent increase. Most foreclosures tend to occur in minority and low-income communities, according to Davis’ office.

One key piece of information shared with homeowners is the fact that it could take up to a full year to actually be evicted from a home. Homeowners have more rights than many people understand, Romero said. There are also several opportunities during the foreclosure process where owners can reclaim possession.

A follow-up meeting will be held during Davis’ State of the District 2007 meeting, held Friday, Sept. 14, from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 15, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Jackson.

Reinstatement: occurs when the loan is brought current by paying the total amount past due. Homeowners have 90 days after being served.

Repayment plan: an agreement to bring the mortgage current over time.

Redemption – the act of paying off a delinquent loan in full. You have the right to pay off the loan during the redemption period.

Home sale/Short payoff: You can sell your home anytime before the foreclosure is finished. A short payoff occurs when you owe more on the loan than the house is worth.

Refinance: You may be able to refinance the loan if you have enough equity in your home.

Loan modification: changing the terms of the delinquent mortgage. These changes may include extending the term of the mortgage or a reduction in the interest rate.

Bankruptcy: Filing for bankruptcy will stop the foreclosure case. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a type of forced repayment plan. For most people, this should be the last option.