CHICAGO (WLS) – Thousands of Cook County residents could be at risk of losing their homes due to unpaid property taxes, with Black and Latino homeowners being among the most vulnerable.
Now, an expanded Cook County Treasurer’s Office program called Black and Latino Houses Matter is tasked with providing tax breaks to some of our area’s most vulnerable residents. The aim is to educate people about their property taxes and provide resources to bring their balance to zero.
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Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas calls the situation a financial crisis. A recent study by the treasurer’s office found that of the 38,000 homes with unpaid property taxes, about 75% are in black or Latin American counties.
“These two communities don’t have the money to pay these taxes, and it’s extremely alarming because about 18,000 of them owe less than $ 1,000,” Pappas said.
The consequences of not paying property taxes can be devastating. Every two years, criminal homes are put on the county’s tax sales list. Hedge funds and corporations are taking this list and buying real estate.
Pappas believes that for most of the homeowners on the list, losing their home is completely preventable.
“There are four or five people on a ward who owe less than $ 200,” she said. “You say how can this happen? It’s easy.”
Pappas stated that many of these homeowners are seniors or people with disabilities, most of whom are eligible for tax exemptions but have never applied to receive them.
For example, a homeowner could owe the country property taxes of $ 800, but the county could owe tax exemptions to the seniors of $ 2,000.
District 15 Ray Lopez said many people in his district have no idea that they are owed this money, part of what he calls cultural segregation.
“It was our first time homebuyers in many of our communities. Nobody explained everything that was out there and available to our parents,” he said. “There are many people who just didn’t know they qualified for these exemptions.
Because of this, Pappas’ office is working with councilors like Lopez and other community partners to speak up and save as many homes as possible, as well as to connect people with the money the county owes them.
“People don’t wake up in the morning and say, did I get a waiver? Did I get a senior freeze? They have no idea they’re even allowed to,” Pappas said.
Pappas said it is her duty to find these people so that their debts can be reduced or, in many cases, paid off.
“There are approximately 38,000 people who are on the verge of being kicked out of the city because they are about to lose their homes,” she said. “Let’s try to save the houses people are in and lose them for a few hundred dollars. That’s what this is about.”
The Treasurer’s Office has property tax refunds of $ 76 million and property tax exemptions of $ 46 million. The money is here. A telephone bank Thursday from 3 p.m. By 7 p.m. it helps to publicize the Black and Latino Houses Matter program.
If you think you are eligible for a priority exemption, a tax refund, or just want to know how to get your taxes off, call the telephone bank at 312-603-5105.
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