Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mortgage Assistance May be on the Way for Some Illinois Homeowners

Having been closely involved in many cases where Illinois residents are facing the possibility of losing their homes, our Cook County foreclosure attorneys are well aware of how desperately people in the Chicagoland area need some kind of assistance with and relief from their mortgages.  Fortunately, it appears that the worries of tens of thousands of concerned homeowners have not fallen entirely on deaf ears in the state government.  This month, Governor Pat Quinn introduced a new state initiative called the Illinois Building Blocks Pilot Program (“Building Blocks”).  Building Blocks is designed to provide $40 million to help fund new job creation, as well as another $10 million to facilitate the purchase and improvement of Cook County homes. 

The program will focus on six specific communities within Cook County: Berwyn, Maywood, Park Forest, Riverdale, Chicago Heights and South Holland.  These communities were chosen because they are among those most severely affected by the economic downturn in the state.  Because they have some of the highest Illinois mortgage foreclosure rates, these areas are also in danger of seeing higher crime rates and even greater drops in home values.  As more foreclosures occur and more homes become property of the banks that financed their purchase, less and less people are actually living in these neighborhoods.  As a result, break-ins, burglaries, and vandalism have become more common.  These crimes can cause the values of homes in the surrounding area to drop, making it more difficult for homeowners with mortgage troubles to sell without taking a substantial loss and ultimately leading to even more foreclosures.  According to an article by Oak Leaves, a Chicago Sun-Times publication, the average home that is located on the same block as a foreclosed property drops between $8,000 and $10,000 in value.

The new Building Blocks program seeks to put an end to this cycle with the implementation of its three main components:

            (1) Home improvement funding in order to facilitate home sales;
            (2) Assistance for people who buy homes in the Building Blocks program's focus communities; and
            (3) Assistance for existing homeowners in the focus communities as a means to ward off more foreclosures and allow those homeowners to continue paying their mortgages.

The home improvement fund will begin by targeting approximately 500 local homes to be fixed-up and then sold.  As the renovated homes are sold, the money from those sales will then be invested back into the fund so that the same process may be used to market other houses.  The assistance for buyers will consist of grants of up to $10,000 to help purchasers with down payments and closing costs on homes within the included areas.  The Cook County homeowners' assistance will come in the form of loan counseling, mortgage restructuring, and even access to financial help for existing mortgages.  The state hopes that by intervening in ways that can stimulate purchasing in the locations that need it most, it can help stop the cycle of foreclosure and begin turning the Illinois real estate market around.

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(Photo courtesy of stevendepolo)

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