Market demands bilingual counselors

The news: Latino homeowners have higher rates of foreclosures than their white counterparts

Behind the news: Some housing advocates say the lack of Spanishspeaking housing counselors increases foreclosures in the Latino community.

A recent report by The Woodstock Institute shows that the 11 Chicago wards with the highest Latino populations saw an increase in the number of foreclosures from 2007 to 2008. The predominantly Latino 31st Ward led the city in foreclosures.

“For someone that is bilingual or speaks English fluently, they have options. They can go here, there, anywhere,” said Ofelia Navarro, executive director of the Spanish Coalition for Housing. “But for someone who is limited as far as their language is concerned, they don’t have those options.”

The Chicago Reporter contacted housing counseling agencies in Chicago certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine the number of Spanish-speaking counselors.

According to the survey, 19 of the 29 agencies have counselors who speak Spanish. Among those 19 agencies, there are 103 counselors, and only half, or 57, speak Spanish. Two agencies did not respond to the request for information.

In Chicago’s 11 Latino wards, five have no Spanishspeaking HUD-certified counselors or agencies. Of the six Latino wards with agencies, 31 of the 47 counselors there speak Spanish.

Kristen Komara, director of financial services and policy at The Resurrection Project, located in Pilsen, said there are enough bilingual counselors for the current clientele, but there would not be enough if effective outreach made Latino communities aware of the services.

Debbie Wills, public affairs officer for HUD’s Chicago branch, said that the housing crisis has a disproportionate effect on minority communities, but no one has brought any complaints regarding Spanish-speaking housing counselors.

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