Equal Justice Works Fellows to Assist At-Risk Illinois Residents

Equal Justice Works was provided with a grant to fund four legal fellows to work in two Illinois cities to assist distressed homeowners at risk of foreclosure.

This represents the first time the Washington-based agency has received funding from a state for legal assistance. The funding from Illinois is part of the mortgage servicing settlement with five of the nation’s largest banks in March 2012.

The four Equal Justice Works Illinois foreclosure fellows—Lacy Burpee, Tracy Walsh, Steve Uhrich and Komal Vaiyda—will join the network of lawyers who are helping Illinois and the nation recover from the foreclosure crisis. The grant covers a three-year period to assist struggling borrowers and tenants in Illinois.

According to RealtyTrac, foreclosure activity in Illinois increased 33% from 2011 to 2012. Furthermore, 1 in 39 housing units received a foreclosure filing during the year, placing it in the top five states with the highest percentage of foreclosure.

“We are very proud to be able to place attorneys in Illinois to assist the state at this crucial time,” said David Stern, executive director of Equal Justice Works. “Though it has dropped from media attention, the foreclosure crisis is still very much an issue affecting millions of people across the United States every day. We are excited to help Illinois in its efforts to find sustainable solutions to this problem.”

In Chicago, Burpee will work with the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing incorporating her legal housing experience to assist low-income communities. Meanwhile, Walsh will use her eviction, foreclosure risk and immigration background to support the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services.

Additionally, Uhrich will help at Chicago Legal Clinic to defend the rights of victims of predatory lending practices and the use of contempt to jail debtors.

Lastly, in Champaign, Vaiyda is going to work with the University of Illinois College of Law and Community Preservation Clinic to empower renters living on foreclosed properties and find solutions to landlord-tenant and foreclosure issues.

With their organizations, the fellows will help negotiate new financing terms, defend against predatory practices, make sure that lenders follow proper regulations, and assist Illinois residents in keeping their homes.