By Mick Zawislak
February 18, 2010

Potential homebuyers can learn what is or will be available at low prices during a workshop regarding foreclosed and repossessed dwellings in Waukegan.

“Home Ownership Made Easy” is hosted by Waukegan city officials from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24 at the Waukegan Public Library, 128 N. County St.

The free event is in advance of the pending receipt of federal funds to help Lake County communities deal with foreclosures.

Waukegan will receive $850,000 in federal stimulus funds to buy, rehab and resell foreclosed properties. The money is distributed through Lake County as part of a national allocation.

Overall, Lake County will receive about $4.6 million in federal funds for the program. Nearly a third, or about $1.7 million, is designated for the five communities hit hardest by foreclosures: Waukegan, North Chicago, Round Lake Beach, Zion and Mundelein.

County and municipal officials welcome the funds but acknowledge they won’t make much of a dent in the number of foreclosed properties on the market.

There are about 1,000 vacant homes in Waukegan, for example, and a large portion are foreclosures, according to Ezell Robins, director of the community development block grant program in Waukegan.

According to the Woodstock Institute, a nonprofit research organization, foreclosure filings in Waukegan rose more than 21 percent to 887 in 2009 compared with 2008.

In Lake County, the number of foreclosures rose nearly 36 percent to 5,590 in 2009 compared with 2008.

The workshop will offer basic information on tax credits, financing and other opportunities to buy affordable housing.

“It certainly is not confined to the program but it grew out of it,” Robins said of the workshop. “A person doesn’t have to be committed to using our program, and the educational piece is for the whole community.”

He said many people don’t think they can afford a home, and the workshop will get them acclimated to the idea it is possible.

The criteria for the stimulus housing program is not as stringent as some others. A person can earn as much as 120 percent of the median income, meaning a family of four making $90,500 would be eligible.

Homes through this program won’t immediately be available but buyers can still benefit, Robins said.

“If they’re ready to buy one and waiting to live in it, we can start working with them today,” he said. “I wanted to attract people to this (workshop) because it’s a great opportunity.”

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