J-Help

Housing

1. My financial situation has changed and I may not be able to pay my mortgage. Where can I turn for help?

  • Often people struggling to pay their mortgages are tempted to avoid all contact with mortgage lenders; however, while you may feel like hiding, ignoring the problem will only limit your options down the road. Instead:
    • Contact your lender as soon as you realize that you have a problem to discuss the options available for borrowers facing difficult financial times.
    • Keep records of all conversations you have with your lenders as well as all documents that you submit on behalf of your case.
    • Review your loan documents so that you are aware of your mortgage rights as well as steps lenders may take if you become unable to make payments.
    • Review your finances in order to realistically prioritize your spending.
    • Be proactive and follow-up on your case until it is resolved. Resolution will look different for each family depending on their particular circumstances, but by setting realistic goals and addressing the problem head on in this way, you may be in a better position to explore foreclosure prevention options.
    For help through this process:
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds free or very low cost housing counseling nationwide. Housing counselors can help you understand the law and provide you with comprehensive information about new programs that impact your options. They can work with you to organize your finances and set realistic goals, help you explore loan modification options, represent you in negotiations with your mortgage lender, or provide you with examples of how previous cases have been resolved with specific lenders. The HUD website provides valuable information about foreclosure prevention and can help you identify a HUD-approved counselor in your area.
  • City of Chicago homeowners can access free mortgage counseling through the City’s Home Preservation Initiative by dialing 311.
  • The Home Affordable Refinance Program gives eligible homeowners with loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac an opportunity to refinance into more affordable monthly payments. The website www.MakingHomeAffordable.gov provides homeowners with detailed information about several programs along with self-assessment tools and calculators to determine eligibility, access to free counseling resources, FAQs of borrowers facing similar challenges, and a checklist of key documents and materials to have ready when calling your lender.
  • Foreclosure and loan modification scams abound online. Be wary of services advertised on non-governmental websites.

2. My financial situation has changed and I may not be able to pay my rent. Where can I turn for help?

  • The Illinois Department of Human Services’ Homeless Prevention Program provides rental assistance, utility assistance and supportive services directly related to the prevention of homelessness to eligible individuals and families who are in danger of eviction, foreclosure or homelessness or are currently homeless. For more information about eligibility requirements and services provided visit www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=30360.
  • The Center for Renters Rights provides information and referral services to tenants and residential rental property owners. For more information visit www.renters-rights.com.
  • The Dina and Eli Field EZRA Multi-Service Center’s Kesher Bayit Program helps clients increase their housing stability and live independently within the community. Through this program, a full time housing locator with collaborative relationships with 19 management companies/permanent housing programs provides housing assessments, advocacy, budgeting assistance, housing search and relocation assistance to clients in need. To get more information about the program and access assistance, contact the EZRA Multi-Service Center by phone at (773) 275-0866.
  • CJE SeniorLife offers free assistance to older adults and their families in finding and applying for various types of housing through its Consumer Assistance Program. The agency’s Housing Specialist helps clients locate and fill out applications for subsidized housing, makes referrals for housing (market rate, assisted living) in Chicago and the suburbs, and mediates landlord tenant disputes. The housing specialist also works with homeless seniors to find temporary and permanent housing. For more information about assistance with housing options for seniors, call CJE SeniorLife at (773) 508-1000.

3. What resources might be available to me if I need help paying my utility bills?

  • The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is designed to help eligible low-income households pay for winter energy services. LIHEAP will provide a one-time benefit to eligible households to be used for energy bills. The amount of the benefit is determined by income, household size, fuel type and geographic location. For more information about eligibility and how to access these resources, visit www.liheapillinois.com or call the Department of Human Services at (800) 447-4278.
  • The Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP) is designed to help low income residents save fuel and money, while increasing the comfort of their homes. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will allow many more low-income Illinois homes to be weatherized over the next two years. For information about eligibility and how to access these resources, visit www.weatherizationillinois.com.
  • HRAIL (Home Repairs for Accessible and Independent Living) is a program for senior citizens, 60 years of age and older, living in Chicago who earn no more than 80% of the median family income (Income limits are based on a median family income of $71,600 for the Chicago Metropolitan Area). HRAIL provides safety, security and accessibility improvements to the homes of eligible seniors. To access the HRAIL program and find the nearest agency to you, call 311, the city of Chicago’s non-emergency hotline.
  • CJE SeniorLife, the Dina and Eli Field EZRA Multi-Service Center, and The ARK can help you access and apply for the above listed utility assistance benefits.