Take Root Chicago launches to stabilize housing

June 25, 2013

(WBEZ/Natalie Moore)
Vacant homes have devastated many Chicago communities. Take Root Chicago want to help save them before they get that way.

A new program to help struggling and potential homeowners is launching in Chicago.

Take Root Chicago will bring lenders, housing nonprofits and advocacy groups under one umbrella. The online portal, which offers a plethora of programs, is targeted at both potential home buyers and those trying to stave off foreclosure.

Take Root Chicago is sponsored by the Chicago Urban League and Freddie Mac. The program’s services range from how to buy cheap vacant homes to financial counseling to finding lending options for first-time buyers.

“You don’t have to go to each person to understand what that specific organization is providing. You just go one place and everybody working together to make it happen,” said Christina Diaz-Malone, vice president of housing and community outreach for Freddie Mac.

Take Root Chicago is free to the public and starts August 1. Similar programs are already up and running in Milwaukee, South Florida, Jacksonville and Denver.

Diaz-Malone said the city is in the top ten of of Freddie Mac’s high delinquency markets.

“The goals of the partnership are twofold: increase homeownership and retain or maintain current homeownership,” Diaz-Malone said.

Chicago has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation. Twenty-five percent of blacks in the city have lost their homes during the current crisis, according to the Chicago Urban League. The damage is still visible in pockets of the South and West Sides where some blocks have more boarded-up homes than those that are occupied.

“The devastation that is taking place particularly in African-American and Latino communities in Chicago is tremendous,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who has sued subprime lenders. “It wiped out a generation of wealth building and it is going to take us at least a generation to rebuild. That’s why it’s important that we’re here on the backend of this crisis to put in place the resources.”

Sharon Legenza, executive director of Housing Action Illinois, said a one-stop program like Take Root Chicago will be beneficial.

“As most people know we have been very focused on foreclosure prevention programs. This is starting to turn that corner, to bring under one roof both information for foreclosure prevention and the homeownership side,” Legenza said. “This is unique because it starts to link housing – rental or homeownership – as a continuum in peoples’ lives.

Natalie Moore is WBEZ’s South Side Bureau reporter. Follow her @natalieymoore.