Home sweet home: A Maywood house rehabbed through the West Cook County Housing Collaborative.IFF Housing

The West Cook County Housing Collaborative unveiled seven affordable properties for sale in Maywood, Bellwood and Forest Park, rehabbed with grants from HUD and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program Friday.

The houses, one of which is in Forest Park, were purchased as foreclosures, rehabbed and are now ready for sale. The collaborative, created in 2009, includes western suburbs Maywood, Bellwood, Forest Park, Oak Park and Berwyn. Twenty-eight homes will be placed on the market over the next year, said Project Manager Kate Ansorge of IFF Housing.

“The home in Forest Park is a three-bedroom within less than a mile of the Blue Line train station,” she said. “The houses we’ve chosen are all close to transit centers.”

Many of the houses have new windows, copper plumbing and brand new kitchens and baths, said Ansorge, with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.

To help make the homes affordable, there is a $10,000 down payment credit available to buyers who meet certain qualifications, said Marz Timms of the West Cook Home Ownership Center, which coordinates the program.

“Buyers must be below 80 percent of the area median income, have a 620 credit score and $2,000 of their own money,” said Timms. “We look at the buyer’s financials, their income tax returns and credit report to analyze the buyer’s ability to pay the mortgage,” Timms said.

According to the West Cook Home Ownership Center website, 80 percent of median income in this area is $60,650 a year for a family of four.

The collaborative is addressing concerns that low-income buyers need to know what they’re getting into. Owners paying more than they can afford and later losing the house to foreclosure is the trap that got many of these houses into foreclosure in the first place.

That’s why the program requires eight hours of home-buyer counseling through the center at 7740 W. Madison. In counseling, buyers learn about the importance of credit, money management and home repairs, Timms said.

Banking regulations have cracked down on predatory lending practices, Timms said, protecting first-time buyers from some pitfalls.

He added that government studies show buyers who participate in pre-purchase counseling are more likely to keep their homes throughout the years “although you can’t factor in losing a job or getting sick or the economy and things of that nature.”

The 28 houses in the program were purchased as foreclosures with funds from CDBG and the non-profit National Community Stabilization Trust (NCST), Ansorge said. Properties were purchased from banks through a nonprofit trust to avoid predatory lending charges.

They were rehabbed by two contractors: Breaking Ground of North Lawndale and the North West Housing Partnership, in Schaumberg, said Ansorge, noting that contractors put money back into the economy by hiring laborers from a HUD “Section 3” database of low-income employees in the region. According to the HUD website, Section 3 employees reside in public housing or have proof of “very low income.” They qualify for federally-funded job training and subsidized work opportunities.

Timms said the houses are priced at “market value” in the “$100,000s.”

Buyers must arrange their own mortgages, he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of calls from people interested in the program. We have to go through to find out who qualifies.”

A typical buyer will be already pre-approved and working with a Realtor.

“That’s what we’re looking for,” he said, “people who are ready to buy.”

The program also has safeguards in place to prevent buyers from “flipping” the properties.

“First of all, most people who can afford to flip a home don’t fall below 80 percent of the median income level,” he noted. “And you have to live in the home. That’s part of the requirement.”

There are open houses scheduled for the next couple of weekends, Timms said. Seven new properties will come online in the first quarter of 2012, followed by another 14 later in the year.

For more information, contact the West Cook Homeownership Center at 708-771-5801 or visit www.westcookhomeownership.org.

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...