Sandra, a homeowner in Highland Park, came to us in 2008 in need of extra income to pay her mortgage. Jackie Grossmann, our Homesharing Coordinator, introduced her to Ivy as a potential renter. Ivy was relocating from Wisconsin for a job in finance. She didn’t know anyone in our state and just wanted initially to rent a safe, clean and affordable room for a few months. Four years later, Sandra and Ivy are still Homesharing together and have developed a close friendship. Sandra says, “We love to garden, visit the Botanic Gardens and to cook together and – added bonus – Ivy is a very good influence as far as exercising is concerned! We feel like family. I never expected this from renting out a room…it is something precious and wonderful. I believe that we will always be friends – thanks to the Homesharing Program!”
Among those hardest hit since the housing market collapse were seasonal construction workers. This was the case for Jamaican immigrants Palma W., her husband and their four children, Evanston homeowners since 2002.
When Palma came to Open Communities, the family was two years’ delinquent on their mortgage. They tried explaining the situation to Chase Bank, their mortgage holder, and negotiate a new rate “but to no avail,” said Palma. Anna Dominov, Housing Counselor for Open Communities, assisted her to get a trial loan modification in January 2013 through the Making Home Affordable Program, and protection from foreclosure under the Cook County Circuit Court Foreclosure Mediation Program until the modification becomes permanent.
“I just want to say a huge Thank You for assisting me in getting a modification. At a point in my life when I thought that all efforts were to no result, my light became brighter. Anna is always ready, willing and able to assist. I know this will carry Open Communities a far way because of the wonderful skills she possesses and the work she does.”
Landlord/Tenant Program: Tenants Empowered
Despite repeated requests, the new landlord of a Bosnian family in Skokie would not fix window blinds, the kitchen faucet, carbon monoxide detectors, and faulty light switches, drains and doors. He even threatened to evict the tenants if they did not sign a new lease with a higher rent.
Brendan Saunders of our staff advised the tenants about the “repair and deduct” procedure, a process of writing a formal request for repairs and giving the landlord fourteen days to fix the violation. If the repair is not made, the tenants can have it completed professionally, and deduct the cost from their rent, up to $500 or a half-month’s rent, whichever is less.
So the family sent a “repair and deduct” warning letter. After this was also ignored, the tenants completed the repairs themselves and shared this procedure with their neighbors who followed suit.
“I am taking this opportunity to thank you and Open Communities for the advice offered. Without it, we might have chosen wrong avenues and may have been evicted. My family and I appreciate all your help and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Fair Housing Program: Opening Doors for Families
A white Chicago family looking for housing in Evanston came to us in frustration: they were turned away from their “perfect” apartment. The landlord told them that he would not rent them the three-bedroom apartment because they had six people in their family, two parents and four children. He said he thought they would not be happy there.
Concerned about possible fair housing discrimination based on presence of children, Viki arranged a site visit to the apartment with the landlord and Evanston building inspectors to resolve the situation. Indeed, the inspectors determined that the apartment was big enough for the family.
Thanks to the fair housing education and community-building effort of Open Communities, the landlord presented the family with lease and they moved into the housing of their choice.