The state of Illinois, in conjunction with Cook County, has launched a new, $55 million initiative aimed at rehabbing vacant, foreclosed properties and converting them into affordable housing.
Officially called the “Illinois Building Blocks Pilot Program,” the initiative will specifically focus on Berwyn, Chicago Heights, Maywood, Park Forest, Riverdale and South Holland.
According to Mary Kenney, the Illinois Housing Development Authority’s executive director, the Chicago region has the highest inventory of foreclosed homes in the nation.
Governor Quinn, who was present at the program’s unveiling late last week, said stabilization is a big aim of the program.
“The Illinois Building Blocks Pilot Program is a strategic effort to help stabilize communities struggling with the foreclosure crisis,” Quinn said. “By turning vacant properties into affordable housing, we’re assisting existing homeowners, strengthening hard-hit neighborhoods and boosting affordable homeownership options for working families.”
As Quinn hinted, the initiative deals with more than the condition of vacant homes. Along with aiding the property values of both the rehabbed homes and the adjacent residences (neighboring properties can lose as much as $10,000 in value), the program also aims to preserve local tax bases and confront local crime, which often congregates around vacant homes.
There are three components to the program: first, using $40 million from the Illinois Jobs Now! capital program and $10 million from Cook County, the program will rehabilitate up to 500 homes in the six communities, using the funds from the ensuing sales to spawn more rehabilitations; second, $5 million will be used to assist homeowners to purchase the properties with grants of $10,000 and closing cost assistance for up to 500 homebuyers; and third, the program will aid current homeowners in the communities in an effort to prevent foreclosures, by the way of counseling, loan modifications and access to financial assistance for the unemployed and under-employed.
Toni Preckwinkle, the Cook County president, highlighted the economic benefits of the program in her comments.
“I am excited to partner with Governor Quinn and the state of Illinois in this joint effort to stem the tide of the foreclosure crisis in our underserved communities, and revitalize Cook County’s neighborhoods,” Preckwinkle said. “We must continue to focus on a regional economic development strategy that more effectively leverages our resources to spur economic growth, and the Building Blocks program is a step in the right direction.”
The initiative builds upon the federally-funded Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) development, under which Illinois has committed $58 million in funding. Currently, Illinois is restoring nearly 450 foreclosed or vacant housing units in Illinois.