One man’s fight against foreclosures in Carpentersville, Illinois
Tom Roeser is on a one-man mission to save Carpentersville, Ill., from falling into the fate of so many post-industrial Midwestern towns, where neighborhoods have become littered with vacant, foreclosed homes.
Over the past several years, the 60-year-old president and co-owner of the town’s largest employer, a maker of switches and communications gear called Otto Engineering, has bought 193 foreclosed homes, completely rehabilitated them and is either selling or renting them at a discount to local residents.
Roeser’s crusade to save this small Northeastern Illinois town started in 2005, soon after a townhouse condominium complex located about two miles from his factory was hit hard by foreclosures and started spawning crime — graffiti, gang tagging, property destruction. The Morningside neighborhood where the complex was located looked unkempt and depressed and property values were plunging.
"It really was neglected," said Roeser. "I went to the town, the county; I went to Habitat for Humanity; I told them that we needed to do something about this neighborhood. I couldn’t get help from anybody."
So Roeser proceeded to buy 69 of the foreclosed condos in the complex himself. Most of the homes he’s bought at auction for less than $30,000, then fixed up. Today, he rents out a renovated 800-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment for $675 a month, about $200 below market value.