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Single mother receives mortgage-free home in Hazel Crest: ‘That is a moment that is etched in my memory forever’

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 10/31/2022 Alexandra Kukulka, Chicago Tribune
Salima Cobb-Collins took a homebuyer education workshop through Far South Community Development Corporation and won a home in Hazel Crest. © Alexandra Kukulka/Chicago Tribune/TNS Salima Cobb-Collins took a homebuyer education workshop through Far South Community Development Corporation and won a home in Hazel Crest.

After Salima Cobb-Collins’ rental in Beverly was sold, she wanted to buy her own home. But even with a loan that her parents co-signed, she was “at a dead end.”

Cobb-Collins, 51, who owns Ancestry Moon Art Studio, said when her business was closed during the pandemic, her income decreased. But after taking a homeownership class and completing an extensive application process through the Far South Community Development Corporation, she received a mortgage free, three-bedroom and one bathroom home in Hazel Crest.

Cobb-Collins, who previously worked for Chicago Public School, and Janece Simmons, the corporation’s vice president of community and housing services, looked over her finances and started looking at homes for sale.

“But everywhere we looked, everything we tried to get, I was out bidded on. After four contracts, I quit. I told her, in disparity, ‘I’m just going to take a break and look at rentals,’” Cobb-Collins said.

Simmons encouraged Cobb-Collins, who has always rented, to take the six-hour homebuyer education workshop through Far South CDC, which offers Housing and Urban Development approved housing counseling for homebuyers and renters. The workshop discusses credit scores and the homebuying and closing processes, Simmons said.

“Our main goal is to help them to become successful in homeownership because as we know that’s one of the ways that wealth is built in this country,” Simmons said. “It’s a foundational step for wealth building, and in this country there’s a racial wealth gap. On the Far South Side, a vast majority of the homeowners are of color, and so we’re definitely working to help people to get to that homebuying goal instead of renting forever.”

Counselors for the class Cobb-Collins took announced attendees were eligible for a mortgage-free home from Chase Home Lending. Simmons said the counselors collect financial documents from attendees, and they considered those who would be able to afford the taxes, insurance and maintenance, as well as those able to move to Hazel Crest.

Regina Broadnax, education and counseling market manager with Chase Home Lending, said the bank has donated homes in the past, this was the first donation to a nonprofit through the bank’s steps to homeownership program.

“Increasing homeownership is a common denominator with Chase and our partners. We both aim to increase homeownership in our Black, Latino and Hispanic communities,” Broadnax said.

Fourteen people from the class were asked to send a one-minute video addressing how winning the home would affect their lives. Cobb-Collins, a single mother of 15-year-old twin boys, said she spoke about “never feeling at home.”

“Everywhere I lived, I never felt at home. That was something that I didn’t want my kids to grow up feeling,” Cobb-Collins said. “I also mentioned how the pandemic affected my living situation because it bumped me out of a rental.”

After the video, Cobb-Collins was informed she and three others were still in the running, and they were all asked to file various documents. Cobb-Collins said she filed a hardship letter, a profit and loss statement and previous tax returns.

Cobb-Collins was informed a winner had been selected and that she and her children should come to the Far South CDC Juneteenth festival. She said she started telling her family and friends about the program and asked them to come to the festival for support.

At the festival, Simmons went on stage and announced the winner. Cobb-Collins said she didn’t even hear Simmons say her last name.

“After she said my first name, my sisters grabbed me and they started crying and screaming,” Cobb-Collins said. “My knees buckled and I almost hit the ground. My kids are like, ‘Mom, did you just win a house?’ That is a moment that is etched in my memory forever.”

Cobb-Collins was told it wouldn’t be a traditional closing because work was still being done on the house, and it would take about 45 days. She moved into the fully renovated home, with updated appliances, laundry room and two-car garage, over Labor Day weekend.

Her new home is an anchor, Cobb-Collins said, and an asset she can pass down to her children.

“It’s very peaceful. It’s very quiet. That is what I was hoping for,” Cobb-Collins said. “When you have kids that are trying to find their way and considering going off to college, you need stability for them so that they can come back home, so they can figure out their life.”

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