PARK MANOR — Gov. Pat Quinn warned homeowners Friday that a Sept. 30 deadline is quickly approaching for a federally funded foreclosure program and that those needing help should apply soon.
"This is a program that has been proven to work in favor of homeowners facing foreclosure. But now is the time to apply for assistance because Sept. 30 will be here before you know it," Quinn said at a Friday news conference in the Park Manor neighborhood. "The biggest investment people make is buying a home."
The $445 million Illinois Hardest Hit program has already helped more than 9,000 homeowners since its 2011 inception, according to Mary Kenney, executive director of the Illinois Housing Development Association, which operates the program.
"To date, $220 million has been committed to qualified homeowners," Kenney said.
The program is why Harriett Edmonds, 55, was able to keep her Park Manor home where she has lived for 25 years after being laid off from her accounting job in 2012.
Edmonds, who joined Quinn outside her home in the 7500 block of South Rhodes Avenue for the news conference, will start a new job on Monday as a grant manager for a nonprofit organization.
"When I lost my job, I was taking care of my terminally ill mother and could not work, and so I fell behind on my mortgage," Edmonds said. "Had it not been for this program, I would have lost my home along with my mom. She passed from cancer last year."
After the news conference, Quinn signed two mortgage related bills into law: House Bill 2832, which makes it more difficult for people to file fraudulent property filings with county recorders, and House Bill 2905, which increases penalties for people who knowingly file false claims of ownership or interest in property.
The misdemeanor crime would become a felony for repeat offenders. State Rep. Marcus Evans (D-Chicago), whose district includes Calumet Heights, sponsored the bill in the House.
"Hopefully this will slow [scammers] down from taking people's homes illegally and discourage others from trying it," Evans said.
Gloria Hadley, 77, said she plans on applying for the program because if not she fears she will lose her $47,000 Grand Crossing home to foreclosure.
"This house needs a lot of repairs and between the leaky roof, faulty plumbing and taxes I cannot keep up with the mortgage," said Hadley, who said her only income is $647 a month from Social Security.
For those who qualify, the program will make mortgage payments for up to 1 and a half years or up to $35,000 on homes with a principal balance not more than $500,000. The program also provides reinstatement assistance and pays mortgage arrearages, fees and penalties in full.
Homeowners can apply for the program online and must meet several requirements to qualify. They include:
* Proof that household income is at or below 120 percent of the area median income.
* Household liquid assets, such as jewelry, cannot exceed $17,500.
* Applicants must not have been convicted of a mortgage-related felony in the last 10 years.
* Households must have a documented income reduction of 20 percent due to unemployment or underemployment through no fault of their own.
* Homeowners must carry a fixed or adjustable rate loan.
Homeowners who do not qualify for the Hardest Hit program should look into other state programs available through the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network, Kenney said.
Foreclosure has dropped in Illinois by 29 percent since 2012, contends Quinn.
But according to a 2012 report by RealtyTrac LLC, a real estate research company, Illinois in 2012 posted the fifth highest foreclosure rate in the country with 2.58 percent of homes getting a foreclosure filing during the year.
The report also ranked Chicago ninth among the top metropolitan areas with the highest foreclosure rates, at 3.31 percent.
Shady bankers are to blame in part for the state's foreclosure crisis, Quinn said.
"Runaway bankers have run our homeowners into the ground. That's why it's so important that we help them," Quinn said.