Agencies working to boost financial literacy

The DuPage Homeownership Center got its start more than 20 years ago to promote and preserve homeownership among first-time buyers and low- and moderate-income consumers.

It still does that, and in fact is seeing an uptick in consumers pursuing homeownership as the nation emerges from the housing crisis.

But the center also is broadening its focus, and partnering with two other nonprofit groups to address the need for financial literacy among DuPage County residents, even if that education doesn’t lead to homeownership.

A pilot program the center is launching this month with DuPage Habitat for Humanity and Bridge Communities Inc. offers a series of free workshops on financial education that clients of the three organizations will be required to take. The topics of the Financial Fitness program will include banking, insurance, credit cards, homebuying and investments, but rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, the agencies will decide which workshops a client takes, based on an individual’s financial acumen.

The partnership, which has received $70,000 in funding for the initial effort, hopes to solicit additional contributions to expand the classes next year to other groups outside DuPage County and to consumers at large.

“As there’s an increase in the working poor in DuPage County, as these nonprofit agency programs are deluged with people who are living paycheck to paycheck, there’s a really large need to have some education, but also some follow-up, some mentoring on how to have longtime financial management success,” said Debra Olson, the homeownership center’s executive director. “Our clientele has typically been people who are renters looking to be homeowners or homeowners who are losing their homes. This is for people who may never be homeowners but need to manage their finances for stable living situations.”

The number of working poor residents in the suburbs — defined as a family of four with household income of no more than $44,700 in 2011, increased by 115 percent between 1990 and 2011, according to a 2012 report by the DuPage Federation on Human Services Reform, a nonprofit group formed by the Illinois governor’s office in 1995. In DuPage County alone, the number of working poor people rose 111 percent during that 21-year period.

For the DuPage County affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, the program will serve as a bridge to homeownership for people who do not currently qualify for the program but one day could. Rather than turning them away, the program will encourage consumers to learn new skills and stay on the right path, said Dave Neary, the executive director.

For Bridge Communities, which serves homeless families and those at risk of becoming homeless, the workshops are expected to make people, if never homeowners, more successful tenants at a time when rents are rising.

“The demand for what we do, we think it’s going to grow,” said John Hayner, chief executive of Bridge Communities.

Ghostly good prices. Homes near cemeteries tend to be smaller and take longer to sell, but when they do, it’s at better prices than other homes, real estate company Redfin found in a seasonal bit of number-crunching.

On average, a home less than 50 feet from a cemetery took 48 days to sell, but when it did, it was for an average per-square-foot price of $162. Larger homes that were between 500 yards and 1,000 yards away were on the market for an average of only 39 days but sold for an average of $145 per square foot.

For its report, Redfin looked at home sales transactions between January 2012 and September 2013. As of Oct. 15, the Chicago area had 115 homes for sale that were less than 100 yards away from a cemetery, making it the area with the third-highest number of homes for sale near cemeteries. Ahead of it on the list were Baltimore and Philadelphia.


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