Habitat to get $2 million from state share of mortgage settlement

Habitat to get $2 million from state share of mortgage settlement

CHAMPAIGN — Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County will share in a $70 million settlement fund for housing relief announced Wednesday by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

The local Habitat organization will receive $2 million to apply to the cost of building 18 more homes on top of its current building program, according to Executive Director Sheila Dodd.

The total cost of the expanded building program will be $5.2 million, with the balance of the cost to be raised through corporate sponsorships, churches and private donations, Dodd said.

Madigan said the $70 million fund is intended to help rebuild Illinois communities devastated by the national foreclosure crisis.

The money is being provided from the more than $1 billion Illinois received in a $25 billion national settlement last year with the nation's five largest bank mortgage servicers — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Ally Bank, formerly GMAC. The settlement addressed allegations of fraudulent practices by banks during foreclosure proceedings.

The new housing fund is intended to help rebuild neighborhoods that were hardest hit by foreclosures, by rebuilding and rehabilitating vacant and abandoned properties and providing housing counseling to homeowners and renters, Madigan's office said.

Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County has been building about two-to-three houses a year, and the additional $2 million will increase the program to eight houses a year for the next three years, Dodd said.

Habitat will also provide financial counseling for families buying the Habitat homes, so they'll be prepared to become home owners, she said.

Dodd said she has been negotiating with the state for a piece of this money since the end of May. The local Habitat organization applied as a team with the cities of Champaign and Urbana and local lenders.

The houses to be built will all be in Champaign-Urbana, in the area bordered by University Avenue on the south, Mattis Avenue on the west, Lincoln Avenue on the east and the community boundaries on the north, she said.

Affordable housing is in "big demand," Dodd said.

One-third of Illinois residents are living in poverty, and more than 40 percent of Illinois residents lack enough savings and income to make a down payment or afford housing, she said.

It can be particularly difficult to find affordable rental homes in Champaign-Urbana because it's a college community, Dodd said.

The local Habitat organization has been on track to build seven houses this calendar year, due to assistance from the cities and church partners, Dodd said. Plans for additional home-builds will start as soon as the grant agreement is signed and qualified families are lined up, she said.