The message “Step Up, US Bank” was said loud and clear Tuesday night at Hope Community Church in Austin as more than 150 people gathered to tell bank officials about their concerns over foreclosures that have blanketed the West Side.
Two representatives from US Bank joined elected officials and community activists in search of a partnership that appeared to be a way’s off. After listening to several people speak, Robert McGhee, vice president of Community Development for US Bank, said the foreclosure situation affects every neighborhood in Chicago.
McGhee said US Bank, which took over Park National Bank last fall after federal, wants to form a partnership with the community. But when pressed on when the two parties could “come to the table,” McGhee couldn’t give a definite answer.
“We are willing to do pretty much whatever it takes to slow this problem down, but it is going to take time,” he said. “We can’t just slam the breaks and stop it overnight.”
Steven McCullough, president and chief executive officer of Bethel New Life and a member of the Coalition to Save Community Banking, repeated the coalition’s desire for US Bank to establish a $25 million foreclosure pool, used for rehabbing foreclosed properties that families can reside.
McCullough shared some alarming statistics -in the last 16 months, for instance, US Bank has been involved in 366 foreclosures on the West Side and neighboring suburb of Oak Park. And in 2009, US Bank filed roughly 1,900 foreclosures citywide, the third highest for any financial institution. But McCullough noted that it it’s not all US Bank.
“We are going to go after all banks, everyone in the food chain that has hurt our families and our communities,” McCullough said.
A study by the Chicago Rehab Network found that in March 2010 alone, there were more than 1,700 newly filed foreclosures and roughly 1,800 completed foreclosures in Chicago. In Austin’s three wards – the 28th, 29th and 37th – there were 102 newly filed foreclosures and 128 completed foreclosures.
According to the same Chicago Rehab Network study, JP Chase Morgan leads all banks in Chicago with 235 forecloses, followed by Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. with 171, and US Bank with 167. Wells Fargo Bank with 110, and CitiMortgage Inc. with 109 rounded out the group.
A common theme from Tuesday night was praise for Park National Bank and its long record of serving and investing in the community. David Pope, president of the Village of Oak Park, argued that there needs to be a financial institution like Park National Bank committed to serving residents, businesses and communities of the West Side.
“The foreclosure crisis is killing these communities, and it’s profoundly harming the Austin neighborhood,” he said. “We need a partnership with US Bank to bring back the community banking that these neighborhoods used to grow and need to survive.”
McGhee said US Bank is very away of the positive impact Park National Bank had on the community.
Delia Ewing, 84, who lives in the 5300 block of West Congress Parkway, pleaded with McGhee to clean up the property located next to her house. She recalled that last week someone carried a dead dog out of the foreclosed home that is not boarded up.
“There are nights when dogs are barking all night, and people are going in and out of the building at all times,” Ewing said. “My husband and I are 86 and 84 years old. We have tried to clean up the property, but we can’t do it anymore. All I am asking for is help; we just need help. I don’t know what is going on over there, but I am scared.”