Livia was living in a cramped apartment in Cicero with her family. Her two children couldn’t even play because the landlord did not want them making too much noise. She and her family had been renting for a while but decided they wanted something better. They began the process of looking to purchase a home. Or so she thought.

For two years they went through the process with different banks and real estate agents. She often had questions about the paperwork needed but no one would return her calls. She and her family struggled because they didn’t understand the process. They received conflicting, confusing information from banks, who told them several times that they did not qualify for a loan because of their income.

Their struggles were typical of many immigrant families. A new report release earlier this year by Zillow and the National Urban League examined access to housing. It noted different outcomes for minority groups trying to secure mortgages and purchase homes that differed greatly from white Americans. Minorities get priced out of the housing market when they are unable to take out housing loans.

According to the Washington Post, “Black and Hispanic borrowers tend to have lower incomes and less-favorable credit histories, those groups have been disproportionately affected by the tough new standards, bankers and consumer advocates said.”

To counter these trends, TRP has provided hundreds of individuals with free financial literacy and home purchase workshops. In 2013, TRP and Self-Help Federal Credit Union spearheaded the rescue of the failed Second Federal Savings and Loan, which became Second Federal Credit Union (SFCU). The new partnership became an opportunity to expand the reach of TRP’s home preservation efforts. Since then, TRP has been working with individuals and families at SFCU to get them on a path to home ownership.

Determined to not give up on her dream of owning a home, Livia enrolled in TRP Realty and registered for the program. She was unsure if anything would come out of participating in the free program. To her surprise she and her husband learned new skills.

“We learned the importance of our credit score and how to make it better,” notes Livia. “It was also valuable to learn about managing credit cards and budgeting.” Prior to taking the credit counseling workshop Livia had multiple credit cards and was only paying the minimum. She decreased her credit card usage, consolidated debt, and save money for a down payment.

After successfully completing TRP’s workshop series, they renewed their housing search. “I felt motivated by working with the TRP staff,” she says. “There was always someone there holding our hand through the process and making sure the bank had everything they needed.”

Livia and her husband were able to secure an immigrant-friendly loan through SFCU with an interest rate within their budget. They were able to do this thanks to their new money management skills and an increase in income. This  type of loan is specifically designed for immigrant communities who have limited or damaged credit and provides low down payments and fair interest rates. It is a loan conceived by the partnership between TRP, Self-Help, and SFCU to create sound financial products tailored for the largely immigrant communities of Chicago’s Southwest side.

Today, Livia and her husband are proud first-time homeowners. “If the immigrant loan through Second Federal Credit Union was not available, we’d still be renting,” says Livia. “TRP’s home purchase workshop series was an investment in our future.”

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