GENEVA – Kane County’s courts have been cleared to establish a new mediation program that could help some homeowners facing foreclosure stay in their homes and clear the court system of clogs of foreclosure cases.
This week, the Kane County Board approved a request from Judith Brawka, chief judge of Illinois’ 16th Judicial Circuit, to set up the foreclosure mediation program.
Brawka had urged the board for months to approve the program, arguing that such a program would alleviate the problems resulting from the flood of home mortgage foreclosures that have plagued Kane County for years.
While the number of home foreclosures has ebbed in the county in recent years, Kane County still suffered more than 4,000 foreclosures last year.
And county officials expect another 4,000 foreclosures this year.
The foreclosures exact a heavy toll on the local economy, leaving neighborhoods littered with vacant homes and driving down property values, which in turn affects property tax burdens borne by those still in their homes.
And the cases can take months or even years to process, clogging the courts.
Brawka and the county’s judiciary hopes the mediation program will reduce those issues by giving lenders and delinquent homeowners a chance to meet face to face under the guidance of a court-appointed mediator and come up with loan modifications to avoid foreclosure.
Kane County Court Administrator Doug Naughton said similar programs have reduced foreclosure caseloads by up to half in other Illinois counties.
Naughton has said the program’s $150,000-$200,000 annual cost would be paid through the collection of a $50 fee charged to lenders for each foreclosure action brought in the county.
Naughton said the courts now will need time to select and train the mediators from among the ranks of local lawyers before the program can become operational, perhaps early next year.
County Board members praised the program.
“This is something we’ve needed for a while,” said Theresa Barreiro, D-Aurora.