Federal funding expands housing counseling in Illinois

Home sales have declined in four of the past five months as housing prices have grown -- but paychecks have remained stagnant. Many people can't afford to buy homes, and those who can are taking on a lot of debt to get into them.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Five Illinois cities will receive federal funding to help people find quality housing or keep current homes.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced $47 million in housing counseling grants Monday. Illinois will receive $1.4 million of that to assist nearly 53,000 households .

HUD counseling money will go to Carlinville, Chicago, Grayslake, Joliet and Springfield.

Housing Action Illinois will help distribute funding. Executive director Sharon Legenza says nonprofit housing counselors help people navigate the mortgage process, avoid predatory lending and foreclosure, and establish budgets for the future.

HUD officials say home ownership is the primary way families begin to build wealth.

The Illinois home ownership rate is 65 percent.

HUD published research last fall that found counseling improves the home-buying and -ownership process.