Foreclosure crisis hits Latinos especially hard


Pablo Arontes, 53, emigrated from Mexico in 1990 in search of the “American dream.” He became a homeowner and held a steady job as a factory worker. In 2010, Arontes fell behind on his mortgage when his partner died of cancer. To make matters worse, Arontes also took a pay cut at his job. He started to worry when the bills began to pile up.

“What am I going to do? I’m going to get thrown out of the house,” Arontes said. “We had two salaries to pay on the mortgage. One of them passed away and I was with all of the bills.” To help pay the mortgage, Arontes began using his credit cards to get the cash advances. “I started to fall far behind. I felt like I was underwater.”

According to a study by the Woodstock Institute, the foreclosure crisis hit areas that are heavily populated by Latinos in the Chicagoland area harder than most. Between December 2006 and December 2011, the value of homes in the Chicagoland area fell by 34 percent. The study also found that 40 percent of properties are underwater in Latino-dominated communities and five percent are nearly underwater. In communities where people of color comprise between 50 and 80 of the total population, 38 percent of borrowers are underwater and five percent of properties are nearly underwater. Almost three times as many properties in communities of color are severely underwater compared to properties in white communities.

Kevin Gallagher, mortgage servicing team manager at Bank of America’s Customer Assistance Center, believes that the first thing people who think that they will fail to make their mortage payments should do is get in touch with their bank. “Find out what options you have to avoid your loan from going past due,” he said.

In an effort to stop the alarming rate of foreclosures in communities color, Bank of America has awarded $22 million in grants to nonprofit organizations that help working families keep their homes. Bank of America’s philanthropic grant support consists of the three core areas they believe are vital to stimulating local economies: Housing, jobs and hunger. Bank of America awarded grants to 22 Chicagoland nonprofit organizations, that includes the Spanish Coalition for Housing.

The Spanish Coalition for Housing, created in 1966, offers extensive counseling, education and housing resources that enables their clients to develop competence and responsibility in meeting their financial and housing needs. As a HUD-certified counseling agency, the organization offers programs in four key areas: Homeownership services, financial literacy, rental services and landlord support.

Arontes is appreciative of the assistance he received at the Spanish Coalition for Housing. “I came to an open house. A friend of mine referred me. Finally and fortunately, I was helped. I never gave up and I’m enjoying my house,” he said.

For more information, The Spanish Coalition for Housing can be reached at 773-292-5784.

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