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英国《金融时报》上的文章  

2009-09-01 15:15:42|  分类: 精华文章 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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                              Chicago's neighbours feel foreclosure pain

                              By Hal Weitzman in Kendall County 2009-08-28

Apart from the piece of paper in the window, the house looks like every other Midwest suburban home in the Lakewood Springs development in Plano, a small town about 50 miles west of downtown Chicago.

But the sign makes clear the house has been repossessed by a local mortgage lender and warns against trespassing. Bob Hausler, Plano's mayor, reads the notice aloud and then pauses. “People lose their jobs, then they lose their homes,” he says quietly.

When Case-Shiller released its home price index on Aug 25, investors were cheered. As they had expected, the figures showed the pace of decline in US residential property sales continued to slow. But good economic news seems remote in towns such as Plano.

Plano sits at the western end of Kendall County, where metropolitan Chicago blends into rural Illinois. Ten years ago the area's flat prairie land was covered in corn and soyabean fields. But between 2000 and 2007 Kendall became the fastest-growing county in the US, as people moved out in search of more affordable property in “bedroom communities”.

Dozens of developments such as Lakewood Springs were built and the county's population doubled to about 100,000. In Plano the growth was even faster – doubling in the past five years alone.

That housing boom has turned to bust. Kendall County now has the highest foreclosure rate in Illinois, with one in every 26 households receiving a foreclosure filing in the first six months of the year – three times higher than the state average and well above the national average of one in every 84 homes.

That underlines the changing nature of the US mortgage crisis in a city such as Chicago. When the housing bubble burst about two years ago some of the worst-affected parts in the city were poor urban neighbourhoods such as the predominantly African-American south side. In the past year the far suburbs – overwhelmingly white and middle-class – have become the new face of foreclosure.

The shift reflects a move away from a “subprime” problem: one in three of the US's new foreclosures between April and June was from a prime, fixed-rate loan – up from one in five a year earlier, says the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Lakewood Springs exemplifies the problem. A total of 34 homes in the neighbourhood has been repossessed, with another two homeowners filing for bankruptcy. But Cole Taylor, a Chicago-area bank, has also foreclosed on its loan to the project's developers, resulting in its taking over another 23 properties directly from them.

Mr Hausler has been working with Cole Taylor to make sure the lawns are mown on the foreclosed properties. But there are few signs of potential buyers returning.

In the years after the second world war Plano proudly called itself “the biggest little industrial city in the world”. The town remains largely blue-collar, but manufacturing jobs are hard to come by. One of the biggest local employers is Caterpillar, which makes earth-moving equipment at a plant in eastern Kendall. The company has cut more than 1,400 jobs at the factory this year – about half of its workforce.

In April the state of Illinois passed a Homeowner Protection Act, which blocks foreclosures in the first 30 days of delinquency, requires lenders to inform borrowers they have another 30 days to seek counselling and gives them a further 30-day grace period to work with a housing counsellor.

Geoff Smith of the Woodstock Institute, a think-tank in Chicago, says that combined with the federal government's Home Affordable Loan Modification Program, the Illinois initiative has helped, although he notes the US Treasury reported this month that only 9 per cent of eligible US borrowers were receiving loan modifications. “That's a big concern,” he says. “The state has done a little bit to try to slow down the foreclosure process, but the mortgage servicers haven't been modifying enough loans to make a big difference. There needs to be more pressure on lenders.”

Back in Kendall County not all is gloom. Sales of existing homes rose 19.7 per cent in July from last year, the fastest growth in the Chicago metropolitan area, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors.

But Valerie Burd, mayor of Yorkville, near Plano – who has held two foreclosure workshops to advise residents – expects more foreclosures. Unemployment is still rising and her constituents tell her mortgage providers are still unwilling to lend money. “We lagged behind the rest of the country,” she says. “We were somewhat insulated here but now – well, now it's definitely hit us.”

                                                  流离失所的芝加哥

作者:英国《金融时报》哈尔?韦茨曼(Hal Weitzman)美国伊利诺伊州肯德尔县报道 2009-08-28

除了窗户上的那一纸公告,这幢房子和普莱诺镇莱克伍德-斯普林斯开发区其它任何一栋中西部郊区住宅别无二样。普莱诺是距离芝加哥市中心以西约50英里的一个小城。

但那个标识清楚表明,这幢房子已经被当地的抵押贷款发放机构收回,并警示人们未经许可不得进入。普莱诺市长鲍勃?豪斯勒(Bob Hausler)大声读出公告上的内容,然后停顿了片刻。“人们先是失去工作,接着又失去自己的房子,”他轻声说道。

当Case-Shiller于8月25日发布房价指数时,如果正如投资者预期的那样,数据显示美国住宅销售下滑的步伐继续放缓,投资者会因此而欢呼。但是利好的经济新闻似乎与普莱诺这样的城镇并不相干。

普莱诺位于肯德尔县的最西部,是芝加哥地区与农业大州伊利诺伊州接壤之处。10年前,这一片平坦的大草原上种满了玉米和大豆。但2000年至2007年间,随着人们搬出大都市在“睡城”(bedroom communities)寻找更能负担得起的住宅,肯德尔县成为美国经济增长速度最快的县。

这里建起了很多像莱克伍德-斯普林斯这样的开发区,全县人口翻了一番,达到10万左右。普莱诺的人口增长速度甚至更快,仅在过去5年里就增加了一倍。

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