ROGERS PARK — A handful of North Side housing advocates say a new $800,000 grant distributed by the Illionis Attorney General's Office would allow them to help homeowners who may have fallen victim to unjust foreclosures or predatory lending during the housing crisis.
The two-year grant would also be a boon to Rogers Park's Northside Community Resources, which will administer the money and lead housing programs and legal assistance in disadvantaged North Side communities.
"We’ve seen that in recent years that the economy is moving slowly, but surely, in the right direction," said Derick Anderson, director of Northside Housing Collaborative, the organization formed to carry out grant programming. "But there’s still a significant population that hasn’t been served throughout the Chicago region."
Specifically, the advocates will be boosting services aimed at non-English speaking homeowners who may have been taken advantage of by lenders, said Dary Mien, the executive director of the Cambodian Association of Illinois, which is based in Lincoln Square.
"The language barrier and cultural barrier play a key role in how someone's not able to understand all the fine print and the terminology there," she said of contractual agreements needed to buy a home. "They don’t know what they’re getting themselves into."
The John Marshall Law School will also provide free legal assistance to new homebuyers and those facing foreclosure as part of the Northside Housing Collaborative.
The $800,000 funding stems from a $25 billion national settlement last year with the country’s five largest bank mortgage servicers — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Ally Bank — which addressed allegations of "robo-signing" foreclosure documents and "other fraudulent practices by banks during foreclosure proceedings," according to a release from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Last year, Madigan announced that $70 million of the settlement would be devoted to help distressed homeowners in Illinois.
Northside Community Resources Executive Director Chris Zala said the money was sorely needed to expand services.
All over the state, he said, there are people in need.
"Three or four months ago we were assisting a homeowner with cancer, facing foreclosure — In the last leg of her life she was being foreclosed upon," he said. "We assisted this individual so she could stay in her home."
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