New housing center helps South Side residents avoid foreclosure, buy homes

Roberto and Cecilia Sauceda bought their four flat building at 48th street and Damen avenue back in 2001 as a home for themselves and their seven children. But when their tenants didn’t pay their rent, the Saucedas fell behind on their mortgage payments.

“Once you’re behind even one month, two months – you know it’s hard to catch up,” Cecilia Sauceda says, “We tried to call the bank, but we just got runarounds.”


Fearing foreclosure, Cecilia remembered the colorful signs she’d seen at Neighborhood Housing Services in Back of the Yards. Four months later, they were out of debt and had a new, fixed-rate mortgage.


With millions of Americans facing foreclosure, the NHS center in Back of the Yards has been flooded with homeowners and homebuyers needing help. A recent $70,000 grant through Country Financial has allowed the office to meet that demand, moving to a new, larger location at 1823 W. 47th St.


Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago is a division of NeighborWorks, a federal program that provides money and assistance for community revitalization nationwide. NHS provides free classes and counseling on how to buy a home and foreclosure assistance. They also buy and rehab residential buildings in the city and resell them to residents.  


This new center is NHS’ first entirely bilingual office. The neighborhood is 50 percent Hispanic. 


Emilio Carrasquillo, the director of Back of the Yards office, says the new grant will expand services to Spanish speaking residents who often have trouble navigating the financial system.


“It’s a whole lesson in a different culture, adapting to this country,” Carrasquillo says, “What is a FICO score? How does it determine the interest rate for a loan? We prepare people not just to attain a home, but to sustain one.”


Carrasquillo says the new central location lets more people know about their services. As a result, classes are growing. Their homeownership and foreclosure assistance classes used to have about three people per class; now they are up to 15. 


“A lot of people want to buy a home. They have the desire, but they don’t understand the process. Word about our classes is spreading,” he says.


The Saucedas credit NHS with saving their home from foreclosure. Roberto Sauceda says the services they provide are invaluable to people in the neighborhood.


“You just can’t navigate that by yourself – you need help,” he says.


Country Financial, an insurance and financial service corporation, provided the money for the new center. This is the largest grant the company has given to NHS, according to Chris Anderson, media relations director for Country financial. She says the company wants to be a part of the neighborhoods they serve.


“We feel the mission of the new center matches our mission – increasing the financial security of Chicago families,” Anderson says. 


Since 1975, Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago has helped 170,000 families and loaned more than $419 million to Chicago homeowners, according to Barbara Harfman, director of public affairs for NHS.



Audio: Hear the Saucedas talk about their struggle to keep their house.