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posted: 6/7/2014 8:00 AM

Money part of last year's settlement with Wells Fargo Bank

Settlement money aids poorer neighborhoods

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HOPE Fair Housing Center is planning to infuse $678,000 into community development programs in Elgin, some targeting Latino and black neighborhoods that were especially affected by the foreclosure crisis.

Anne V. Houghtaling, the agency's executive director, said the money is part of last year's settlement of a complaint filed by the National Fair Housing Alliance against Wells Fargo Bank.

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The $42 million settlement in June 2013 was a result of allegations the bank failed to maintain and market foreclosed homes in communities of color across the country.

HOPE Fair Housing Center, based in West Chicago, received about $1.5 million of the settlement, Houghtaling said. The agency is also funding community development programs in Chicago's Austin neighborhood, she said.

"(The settlement) is designed to sort of undo the harm of the foreclosures and its impact that was particularly hard on those communities," she said.

HOPE Fair Housing will host a launch party for the Elginstead ad campaign from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday at Gail Borden Public Library, 270 N. Grove Ave. Mayor David Kaptain will be among the speakers.

HOPE plans to use the funds for various initiatives in Elgin, including employer-assisted housing, rehabbing of foreclosed homes by Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley and other yet-to-be-determined initiatives, Houghtaling said.

Employer-assisted housing means employers can get matching grants to help their workers buy homes in Elgin. Data shows that about 60 percent of employees in Elgin live elsewhere, Houghtaling said.

"(Living locally) can create a stable and competitive workforce," she said. "Employees that have shorter commutes who are invested in the community may also be more interested and invested in their jobs," she said.

The plan is to fund and implement the program in Elgin within the next 18 months, she said.

A three-month ad campaign by The CauseWay Agency promoting the idea of living in Elgin will launch June 20, Houghtaling said.

The Elgin Development Group's Enhancing Elgin committee met with HOPE representatives last month, said Carol Gieske, president of the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce.

"Our committee volunteers were very enthusiastic about the campaign focusing on Elgin and the many attributes our community has to offer those who are living and/or working in the community," she said.

Research shows disparities in how certain communities are marketed, she said.

"Real estate agents don't accurately market communities of color -- they steer people away," she said. "Marketing of a community is one of the most impactful things you can do in terms of community reinvestment."

For details about the program, call Paula Brkich, HOPE Fair Housing's lending and community development program director, at (630) 690-6500.

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