U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin visited Elgin Tuesday to learn more about how the national foreclosure crisis has hit home.
Durbin made the rounds in Elgin ahead of introducing legislation that aims to enhance President Obama's foreclosure prevention program.
His bill would help homeowners who have lost their jobs continue to pay for their houses while they look for work. For homeowners who have consistently made a reduced mortgage payment and now find themselves owing more than their house is worth, the bill would adjust their loan balance to reflect current market value.
As part of his trip, Durbin toured several houses in the Elgin Historic District with Mayor Ed Schock and other city leaders, then met with several affected residents and the counselors at Neighborhood Housing Services who are helping them.
Officials said there were more than 1,000 homes in foreclosure in Elgin last year.
"So, you got a problem," Durbin told Schock. "We all got a problem, but you seem to have more of it."
Schock expects the foreclosure crisis to worsen which means bad times for even more families and neighborhoods.
"That could be really devastating," he said. "Not only have they lost their home but they've lost their entire lifestyle."
But there is a silver lining.
Johnny Placeres, director of the NHS, says the organization has 100 open cases now that involve helping people facing foreclosure.
"What we have to deal with is the inefficiencies with the banks," Placeres said, noting that information from the banks isn't always forthcoming and is sometimes inaccurate. "You see the frustration."
In addition, the city was awarded last year with $2.1 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Leaders hope to buy, rehab and sell 12 homes and are working with NHS to find qualifying buyers.
Earlier this year, however, HUD denied the city's application for $2.44 million to buy more foreclosed houses.
As well, Eligio Guerrero, who spoke with Durbin during the house tour, told the senator that NHS stepped in when his parents were on the verge of losing their east side house.
His parents, Maria and Eligio, fell six months behind on their mortgage and owed the bank more than $9,000 because the elder Guerrero couldn't find work as a landscaper.
NHS got the bank to lower the mortgage's interest rate, which meant the family could keep their house.
"I know it's really hard to move around," said Guerrero, who moved around a lot as a child and has two younger sisters. "The kids are most of the ones who take the suffering."