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Kadner: Mortgage help for homeowners

New state programs can help homeowners avoid foreclosure.  |  File photo

New state programs can help homeowners avoid foreclosure. | File photo

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Updated: November 8, 2012 12:00PM



For years, I’ve been complaining about the lack of government programs to stem the tide of home foreclosures.

Well, the state now has a program, and I urge anyone who is behind in their mortgage payments or fearful that they might soon be to take advantage of it.

Even people in underwater mortgages, those who bought homes before the economic recession hit at inflated prices, can get some free advice.

Even if you don’t need this sort of help, chances are you know someone who does, so please tell them about this column.

Next Saturday, there will be a free Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network workshop at the South Holland Community Center, 501 E. 170th St., from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s open to the public, and no appointment is needed.

Sponsored by the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the workshop’s primary aim is to help people who are behind in their mortgage payments due to a substantial loss of income. Financial assistance is being offered through money from the federal government.

To receive financial assistance under the Illinois Hardest Hit Program, homeowners must demonstrate a 20 percent loss of income. If you qualify, the program will pay your mortgage for up to 18 months to a maximum of $25,000.

The goal is to help people remain in their homes by making their mortgage payments current.

Although the economy may be showing signs of improvement, home foreclosures in Cook County were up 3 percent for the first half of 2012 compared with 2011, according to Mary Kenney, executive director of IHDA.

The numbers were much worse in the Southland, with a 10 percent increase in foreclosure filings overall and communities such as Tinley Park and Evergreen Park experiencing 20 percent and 40 percent increases respectively over 2011, Kenney said.

In Evergreen Park, that meant an increase from 107 foreclosure filings in 2011 to 176 in 2012. In Tinley Park, there were 213 filings in the first half of this year compared with 177 in the first six months of 2011.

In addition to the Hardest Hit Program, the state also has something called Illinois Building Blocks.

Under this program, six suburbs — including Chicago Heights, Park Forest and South Holland — are being targeted to help up to 500 homebuyers purchase vacant houses by offering them a $10,000 down payment and closing-cost assistance.

Kenney said Illinois Building Blocks is a pilot project that may eventually expand beyond the initial six suburbs.

The state is also offering mortgages to qualified buyers at very low interest rates.

On top of all of that, IHDA is offering counselors free of charge to provide case management to people who feel they may be in danger of losing their homes via foreclosure.

Kenney said she encourages people to contact her office and visit the workshop in South Holland even if they haven’t missed a mortgage payment.

“We especially want to reach out to people who aren’t in trouble yet so we can get them the counseling they need to avoid a problem in the future,” she said.

Although these programs have been in existence for almost a year, Kenney said the state has had trouble reaching people in need because people facing foreclosure are fearful of being scammed.

“We discovered they often would simply hang up on us when we called them,” she said.

The five largest banks in the Chicago metro area will be represented at the Oct. 13 workshop so their mortgage holders can immediately discuss whatever problems they’re having making payments.

IHDA also will have 25 counselors on hand to help people apply for mortgage assistance. The counselors will be able to advise people on how to apply for other federal programs that could lower their mortgage payments, even if they haven’t experienced a reduction in income.

You can find out more information by visiting the state’s website, www.keepyourhomeillinois.org, or calling a toll free hotline at (855) 533-7411.

People who believe they might qualify for a Hardest Hit mortgage grant are asked to bring a mortgage statement, 2010 and 2011 W-2 forms and tax returns with all schedules, two months of recent pay stubs, a budget of household expenses, documentation of other income, two months of bank statements, a recent utility bill and a profit-loss statement if self-employed.

If you can’t put that documentation together in one week, you can still attend the workshop and meet with a counselor to get the ball rolling.

I believe the housing crisis in this country is the greatest threat to jump starting the economy.

These assistance programs are the sort of thing the government should have been doing four years ago.

But at least elected officials now seem focused on the problem.

Update: The Illinois Appellate Court has upheld a lower court ruling that Joseph Bertrand Jr., the former president of the Bremen Township Board of School Trustees, is not entitled to $220,000 in legal fees he attempted to award himself in 2010. Bertrand sued after he was elected to the board but prevented from taking his seat. Local school districts and the Illinois attorney general’s office intervened to stop the reimbursement for his legal costs.

Among other things, the appellate court ruled that Bertrand had a conflict of interest because he stood to financially benefit from the board’s actions.

As a result of the controversy, the Bremen Township school board was reconfigured and now includes a representative from every school district in the township.



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