Homeownership can be a powerful way to build wealth. When affordable, a home can offer families stability and be a valuable asset to pass on to future generations. For people who have faced systemic obstacles to homeownership, primarily people of color, owning a home can help build generational wealth and narrow the racial wealth gap. Although not the right choice for everyone, owning home is also symbolic of the American dream and can be a source of pride for families.
Unfortunately, too many Illinoisans find themselves without enough savings to cover down payment and closing costs. Many are unable to access the credit necessary to even consider the path to homeownership. The foreclosure crisis, which caused millions of households to lose their homes, has had a lasting impact on lending practices, property values, and homeownership opportunities across the state, particularly in low- and moderate-income communities. On top of this, buying a home can be confusing, and many people do not fully understand their options.
There are a variety of ways to address these problems, such as providing more accessible and affordable financial products, expanding the stock of affordable starter homes, and access to reliable homeownership education. This way, homeownership can offer its promises of stability, safety, and opportunity.
What Does It Cost To Own A Home In Illinois?
Why Racial Justice Matters
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An Individual Perspective
For Debra Lee, the path to homeownership required 11 years of planning, counseling, and commitment. Debra attended a first-time homebuying workshop by Housing Action Illinois member LUCHA in 2007, afterward deciding to focus on reducing her debt rather than trying to buy a home. In 2014, she returned to LUCHA and worked extensively with their staff to reduce her debt to a mere $300. Now, with a stable financial base, Debra renewed her search for a house that accommodated her budget and preferences. After a year of searching, Debra said goodbye to her apartment of 17 years on June 8, 2015. “This is your home,” said the previous residents’ daughter on closing day. Three years later, as she stands on her front porch for a photo, the pride Debra feels from that statement still radiates through her welcoming smile.
What Have We Been Doing?
- We have been building the capacity of housing counseling agencies throughout the state since 2005. As a HUD Housing Counseling Intermediary, we manage pass-through funds from HUD for a network of housing counseling agencies that helped 10,552 clients understand their housing options, and 268 families buy their first home in 2017.
- We regularly advocate for funding for programs that support low-income households on their path to informed, sustainable homeownership. In FY 2012, we worked with groups around the country to successfully advocate for $45 million in federal funding for HUD-certified housing counseling agencies after funding had been totally eliminated in the prior year’s budget, and now funding for the program has been awarded every year since.
- In 2015, in response to a reverse mortgage scheme targeting elderly African American homeowners on the west and south sides of Chicago, we successfully advocated for a new state law providing consumer protections for seniors considering reverse mortgages.
- In 2017, we successfully advocated for extending two state fees on foreclosure filings; part of the revenue generated supports state grants to HUD approved housing counseling agencies to provide counseling to homeowners at risk of foreclosure.
- In 2017, we drafted and advocated for a new state law protecting would-be homeowners from predatory rent-to-own contracts from largely unregulated companies that falsely promise homeownership to people with low incomes.
- During June, which is National Homeownership Month, we help housing nonprofits spread the word about affordable homeownership and the importance of housing counseling. See our 2019 toolkit for housing counseling agencies.