Eileen Lazich has lived in the greater Milwaukee area for a number of years. Lazich has held many jobs before she came to ACTS Housing. They were mostly blue collar jobs. After earning a degree in finance, she "fell into accounting." In her previous position, she loved the benefits but did not feel as if she made a difference. She waited for the right moment to switch to something that would make her feel meaningful. In her position with ACTS she does everything but generate revenue, such as book keeping, accounting, invoicing, maintaining paperwork on some city contracts, and keeping the loan portfolio up-to-date. Whether it's a document, earnest money, grant money, or checks, she makes sure everything is in the appropriate location.
Loans are almost entirely her expertise. Lazich is always up-to-date with that portfolio, keeping track of missed payments. What is remarkable to Lazich is that the program targets families that no one else wants. Yet, ACTS' portfolio is better than industry averages –– they are 98 percent current. Most of their clients are current in their loan payments and she is very proud of that. There are about 160 loans out right now, and all loans come through her and the central office.
Once a loan has been approved, Lazich gets involved. Loans can only be used for rehab, paying the contracts, and reimbursing the families, and ensuring that the families are housed in livable spaces. All principal payments on loans go back into the loan fund. Loans are not for remodeling. The money is earmarked for getting things up to code, not for additions such as larger bathrooms. Credit ratings are often a side benefit. The driving force is to get people in the house so that they can be safe, established, and successful. Lazich recalls one huge rehab in which the bank really didn't want the property. Yet the family was able to take it on because the father was a contractor and would be able to do his own work at a reduced cost. That was a perfect fit because it gave the family a house, got the bank one less house, and saved the home from being demolished.
She is proud that ACTS Housing helps first-time homeowners buy homes foreclosed by a bank or the city. She finds it fulfilling that she is able to serve those people who no one else wants to serve and save those properties no one wants to buy.
Eileen Lazich, Interviewed by Joe Gaudreau, Esme Barniskis, Murray Smith, June 2016