The Cook County Board recently approved a three-year extension for the Circuit Court of Cook County’s Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program. The CBF and other partner organizations worked with the Circuit Court to develop and launch this innovative program in the Spring of 2010 to help homeowners resolve their foreclosure cases in the most fair and effective manner possible. From the start, the CBF has managed the program’s legal and mediation components in partnership with the Chicago Legal Clinic, the Center for Conflict Resolution, and Chicago Volunteer Legal Services. With funding from the County, people facing foreclosure have access through a central help line to free housing counseling, brief legal assistance and community education. In appropriate cases, they also have access to mediation with pro bono legal representation to help them reach an appropriate agreement with their lender.
Since the inception of the program almost four years ago, more than 95,000 people have received advice and brief legal assistance through the program. Over that time, more than 8,000 cases have been sent to mediation, with most borrowers reaching some kind of agreement with their lender and thousands being able to save their homes by modifying their loans. Another reflection of the program’s efficacy and success is the overall satisfaction rate for all parties participating in the mediation proceedings, which consistently has been in the 95% range.
While the huge surge in mortgage foreclosure filings has started to level off from the peak two years ago (when more than 50,000 new cases were filed), there are roughly 60,000 cases still pending in Cook County. The Cook County Board’s renewal of funding for the program includes more than $1.5 million in annual funding for the legal aid and mediation components, with additional funding for housing counseling, outreach and dedicated court personnel. The renewal of the program will enable many thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure in Cook County to continue to benefit from these resources and help them reach the most fair and effective resolution of their cases.