Ald. Isaac Carothers (29) hosted the West Regional Affordable Neighborhoods Expo Saturday at the Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St. The housing expo provided information about affordable housing resources and homeownership.

The expo included vendors and representatives from state and city agencies, including the department of housing. Vendors also included organizations and nonprofit groups from both the public and private sectors, offering information on credit counseling, rehabbing your home and making the transition from renting to owning.

“I want people to look at the 29th Ward and look at it as a viable options when determining where to purchase their first home,” said Carothers. “Hopefully those in attendance will take advantage of the wealth of information available to them.”

Representatives from the Department of Housing provided information on Affordable home buying programs such as TaxSmart Mortgage, the Historic Chicago Bungalow and New Homes for Chicago.

Along with individual vendors, several workshops took place. Participants received information in a conference-style setting via slide shows and Q&A sessions.

One workshop of particular interest focused on Rehabbing one’s home, and assuring that the project is in the homeowner’s best interest, and is one that helps build equity into the property.

“It is vital that going in, you decide if you are doing a small job or a large job,” said Michelle Collins, a representative of the loans department at ShoreBank, who hosted the workshop. “A small job, which maybe only replacing the windows or repairing the pipes in the bathroom is different than adding a room. However, you must have a clear idea in mind exactly what you want to have done because you need to have an idea the cost of the job, the materials and the time required to do the job before you contact the contractor or request a loan.”

Collins also stressed the importance of knowing as much as one can about the contractor before handing over money. Generally, it’s expected that homeowners make a partial payment to contractors before work begins, she said. However, before homeowners pay they must cover each of the “what, when, why and how’s.”

“Talk to other people whose homes they’ve worked on,” said Collins, “they should be able to given you a list and contact information of their former clients. Also, make sure they are crystal clear about what they are going to do, so if their is a problem you can take legal recourse and not have to wage a lengthy ‘he said/she said’ dispute over the work.

“For example, if he’s installing new windows you want to know what type, what material, how it should look when finished and how long it will take to complete,” Collins added. “Vague descriptions like ‘I’m going to replace these windows, is just a breeding ground for controversy over the work later.”

Mary Bounds attended the workshop in hopes of obtaining information on rehabbing properties she owns. The mother of two became involved in property ownership through the encouragement of her son who is a property manager and realtor.

“It’s interesting working alongside my son on managing these properties,” said Bounds. “He still knows more than I do about closing deals and applying for loans but I feel that I am willing to learn as much as I can. I think that these workshops are just what the community needs to control our own destiny, and hopefully, as many West Siders as possible can take advantage of this important chance.”

Find ways to add energy conservation to your plans: Making changes that will make your home more energy efficient will lower the cost of bills in the long run, as well as make your home more desirable to prospective buyers if you choose to sell.

Be realistic about cost: Windows make of elk and rounded at the top will certainly be more costly and time consuming to install than simple frame windows. Estimate the cost and nature of the project. If the cost of the job exceeds what you are willing to spend, be willing to re-think your plan.

Allow extra time for contractors: since contractors rarely finish in the exact time frame of the project, be willing to allow contractors extra time to finish the job. Maybe consider adding an additional week or two toward the end date, depending on the job itself. Also, monitor the contractor’s progress to assure the work is being done.

For more information about the city’s neighborhood Housing Expos or Housing programs visit www.cityofchicago/housing.

?”Robert Felton