According to a recent report from the National Training and Information Center, both the middle and poorer class communities on the West Side have been greatly impacted by the home mortgage meltdown.

In Austin, there have been 345 foreclosures this year. This includes foreclosures an average of 48.5 per square mile. In West Garfield Park, there have been 89 total foreclosures, but due to the relatively small size of the area, it translates to just over 70 per square mile.

Given these numbers, Cong. Danny Davis convened a press conference on Monday to speak with elected officials and community organizations about passing legislative to help stem the tide.

Davis hosted the morning press conference at his West Side District headquarters at 3333 W. Arthington.

“In 2007, almost 2.2 million homeowners have been foreclosed, and it is predicted that in 2008, over 2 million sub-prime loans will reset, resulting in hundreds of thousands of foreclosures,” said Davis. “Our nation and our local governments, along with community groups and clergy, must be more proactive in countering this problem.”

Joining Davis were elected officials and community groups:

State Rep. LaShawn Ford (8th); City Treasurer Stephanie Neely; 28th Ward Ald. Ed Smith; Ald. Howard Brookins (21); State Sen. Mattie Hunter (3rd); Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church; and Bob Vondrasak, executive director of the South Austin Coalition (SACCC).

Davis called for a 90-day moratorium on foreclosed properties, allowing homeowners a three-month grace period.

Davis also suggested creating legislation that would free homeowners from the threat of eviction during the winter months, in addition to insisting that banks allow owners to rent their houses for six months to give them the opportunity to settle their finances.

“Granted, there is a serious problem in the housing market with predatory lending and sub-prime loans, however, it is essential that prospective owners read their contracts carefully before they sign anything,” said City Treasurer Neely.

“Take as much time as you need to assure you understand everything that it entails,” she advised, “because often, the lenders are banking on you not noticing the fine print.”

Neely added that their are government offices in place to assist those struggling to make mortgage payments. She suggested contacting the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago if homeowners fall behind in their mortgage.

“Talk to your lender about re-financing as well,” she said. “It could be the difference in losing and maintaining your home.”

Ald. Smith said that many people fail to realize that home loans can be re-adjusted up to three times, and that a 30-year loan can be changed to a 40-year loan.

“Their are options available to you if you address it immediately, but you cannot wait until the knock on the door to try to work out a plan,” he warned.

Rep. Ford, who also chairs an Illinois House foreclosure advisory committee, voiced his support for Davis’ plan. Ford added that he wants the state and federal government to work together in handling the foreclosure crisis.

“Losing ones home is not just a problem for the mothers and fathers and children who are now homeless, but it hurts the community too,” he said. “If the property becomes vacant there is a greater likelihood it will not be kept up, which will lower property taxes on the house and those on the same block. It effects the entire community.”

To contact the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, call 312/341-1070.