Monday, March 27, 2017 || By Wendell Hutson for Austin Weekly News || @maywoodnews
The latest project by a nonprofit foundation to help economically challenged individuals and families came too late for one homeowner who said he lost his home due to back taxes.
“No one wanted to loan me any money because I had bad credit. My friends and family wouldn’t even loan me a few bucks,” recalled Bruce Brown, 49. “Just because you are a homeowner does not mean you are financially solid. You’d be surprised how many people lose their homes because of taxes.”
Businessman Willie Wilson said he wants to help as many people keep their homes as God allows him to during an announcement last week of and his latest initiative.
Through his “Dr. Willie Wilson Foundation,” the businessman and former Chicago mayoral and U.S. presidential candidate donated $150,000 to help Cook County homeowners pay their (2015) delinquent property taxes by the April 3 deadline.
Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) said that in the past homeowners had a 12-month grace period to pay their back taxes, but state lawmakers changed it to eight months.
“This change affects 50,000 homeowners with delinquent tax bills for 2015,” added Boykin. “It would be good if banks donated to the program since some of them are responsible for issuing high-interest mortgages.”
The purpose for the program, said Wilson, is to help people and nothing more.
“I am doing this not for political reasons but because there is a need for the community to do something,” said Wilson, who added that he is not interested in running for governor despite rumors to the contrary.
“If I did decide to run for office again it would not be for governor,” Wilson told the Austin Weekly News. “I think being governor is a boring job.”
But regardless of why Wilson continues to use his personal money to help people, residents applauded his efforts.
“It’s not many Willie Wilsons in Chicago,” said Georgia Gordon, 62. “Here’s a black man with a lot of money and instead of keeping it to himself he’s sharing his wealth with us ‘common’ folks.”
Marvin Tapps, 50, said he paid off his past due property taxes in November.
“If I was still behind, I would have applied for a loan with the foundation,” he said. “He’s using his wealth to bless other people and God will look kindly on him for doing so.”
Last week, Wilson’s foundation along with the West Side Justice Center, located at 601 S. California Ave. in East Garfield Park, reviewed more than 100 applications they received for an interest-free loan and will make payments on behalf of homeowners to the Cook County Treasurers Office, said Tanya Woods, the Justice Center’s executive director.
Each eligible applicant could receive up to $1,000. If they don’t receive the maximum, “we will try to give them as much as possible,” added Woods, whose organization serves as the administrator for the program.
Woods said they won’t utilize credit checks to determine a person’s eligibility for a loan. To apply, a homeowner must complete a one-page application, available at the justice center, and bring valid identification and their Cook County property tax bill. But the loans must be repaid this year by Aug. 31.
If loans are not paid by then? Wilson said he is not worried about it.
“I am not looking to get it all back,” he said. “If people pay it back great. But if not, that’s fine too.”
Boykin donated $5,000 to the program and several West Side pastors were expected to make donations in the days ahead.
“I donated my money because I believe this is a worthy cause that is long overdue,” said Boykin. “This program gives people hope and government should be figuring out ways to help people (and not hurt them).”
For homeowners who do not pay their back taxes, an auction will be held that allows investors to purchase the debt. If that happens, the homeowner must then pay interest on their taxes to the purchaser, who could possibly own the property if taxes are not paid within a reasonable time frame, according to Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas. VFP
Cook County Treasurer’s Tips on How to Avoid a Property Tax Sale