Housing roller coaster: Joliet-area market has seen ups and downs — and is waiting for a rebound
By Tony Graf and Cindy Wojdyla Cain Staff Writers December 1, 2012 7:02PM
Home owners Cheryl Carbone (left) and Stacy Harshbarger talk about the manufactured homes being built in their Grande Park Subdivision while standing in front of Harshbargers custom built home in Plainfield, Illinois, Thursday, November 29, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media
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Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network: Connects struggling homeowners with resources, including up to $25,000 in mortgage assistance under the Illinois Hardest Hit program, to help them keep their home. Call 855-533-7411, or visit online at www.keepyourhomeillinois.org.
SmartMove: Affordable loan program. Thirty-year, fixed-rate loan with affordable interest rate and up to $6,000 for down payment and/or closing cost assistance for first-time buyers. Visit online at www.ihda.org/homeowner/gettingLoan.htm.
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Updated: January 3, 2013 6:19AM
Between 1990 and 2005, Joliet had the greatest growth boom in its history. A nationwide housing crisis stopped that surge, and the local real estate market remains difficult to this day.
This year has brought some reasons for optimism regarding a housing rebound.
Joliet is just one example of the roller coaster ride that is Will County. During the boom years of the last two decades, Plainfield was one of the fastest-growing towns in the nation. Families flocked to Lockport, and a tollway followed their trail into the eastern end of the city.
All three towns have suffered from a national recession and a slow recovery in the aftermath. All three are waiting for the real estate market to fully recover.
Gains in Joliet
Joliet has almost doubled its population in the last 20 years, from 76,800 in 1990 to almost 150,000 today. However, the most recent years have been marked by economic hardships.
As the economy lags, Joliet is seeing positive signs in the housing market. However, no one is going to declare the housing slump to be over as long as the foreclosure rate remains high, City Manager Thomas Thanas said.
Thanas pointed out two positive signs in particular:
Private investors have taken possession of most undeveloped subdivision land that had fallen into the hands of banks or bankruptcy trustees in 2007 and afterward. This is a sign that the land is in the right hands in order for future development, Thanas said.
The city has received more than $5 million through federal and state grants and has invested the funds in its Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which buys foreclosed homes, rehabilitates them, and gets them back on the market, Thanas said.
Another positive sign from 2012 is Raynor Park Homes. This development, which is being called Joliet’s first residential subdivision in five years, was approved by the city council in July. The subdivision is planned for the former Raynor Park School site, northwest of Hosmer Street and Curtis Avenue.
The developer wants to build homes ranging in size from 1,200 square feet to 1,670 square feet, according to city documents. The homes would include ranches, raised ranches and two-story models.
As of the end of October, Joliet has issued 48 permits for single-family homes in 2012, said Dave Mackley, director of the building division. That number is up from 38 at the same time last year, Mackley said.
In 2005, Joliet issued 2,000 building permits — an impressive number reminiscent of a growth boom. The following year, however, the city began to see a drastic drop in permits issued. That drop continued in 2007.
By 2008 — the year that many people associate with the beginning of the economic crisis — building permits were down to a trickle.
That was accompanied by a high rate of foreclosures. Thanas gave one example of the dynamics of a foreclosure: A two-income couple has taken out a large mortgage on a home. One or both experience a job loss amid difficult economic times. They either remain out of work, or must take on lower-paying jobs, and cannot make the mortgage payments.
These foreclosures, in turn, lower the prices of other homes on the market.
With 2005 being the last year of growth in housing permits, Joliet is technically in the eighth year of its housing slump, Thanas said.
Thanas cautioned that until the foreclosure rate comes down, home prices will remain depressed and the weakness in the market will linger.
For the five ZIP codes in the Joliet housing market, October 2012 home prices were down from last year, according to the Zillow Home Value Index. However, prices were up from September.
Village of Plainfield
Plainfield’s planning department employees high-fived each other on Tuesday as the village issued its 100th residential building permit for the year.
The 2012 total is up from 58 in 2010 and 88 in 2011, but it’s a far cry from the peak building boom of about 1,400 homes a year from 2003 to 2005.
Things have changed a lot in the village, which was once one of the fastest growing communities in the country. When the housing bubble burst and the Great Recession took hold in December 2007, home building came to a screeching halt.
In 2010, Plainfield farmers started buying back the farmland they had sold for much higher prices during the boom.
These days, Plainfield is experiencing a new housing trend, said Village Planner Michael Garrigan. Production home builders are buying up foreclosed lots in subdivisions that are home to higher end semi-custom homes, Garrigan said.
As a result of the change, the village is reworking its master plan to better reflect changes in the housing market.
October 2012 home prices were up from last year in two of the three ZIP codes in the Plainfield housing market, according to the Zillow index. In all three areas, home prices were up from September.
Back in 2007, Lockport was in an exciting era of growth. To the east, the opening of the Interstate 355 extension signaled a new development potential — just like the opening of the Illinois & Michigan Canal on the west 159 years before.
Nevertheless, the housing market showed signs of slowing as the lean years approached. In 2005, 406 residential permits were issued in Lockport, according to city documents. That number dropped to 215 in 2006, 116 in 2007 and 58 in 2008.
In recent years, the numbers continue to be lower than in the growth boom: 28 in 2009, 37 in 2010, 20 in 2011, and 29 so far this year.
However, City Administrator Tim Schloneger is optimistic about Lockport’s outlook as the recovery continues.
“I think the numbers will pick up,” he said. “The builders here in Lockport are good builders and build quality products.”
He mentioned several other factors in Lockport’s favor: Will County’s good employment base, which continues to grow; the I-355 extension; and local education.
“Our schools remain superior with the quality of education you can get in Lockport,” he said.
October 2012 home prices were up from last year, and from September, in the ZIP code covering the Lockport housing market, according to the Zillow index.