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Emanuel Administration Applauds Passage of Home Buyer Assistance Program

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The program's effectiveness and financial sustainability remain in question

A new program announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in January to help low- to medium-income Chicagoans purchase their own homes is set to soon take effect after passing the Chicago City Council in March. Dubbed the City of Chicago Home Buyer Assistance Program, the initiative is administered by Emanuel’s Chicago Infrastructure Trust and is designed to help cover the down payment and closing costs associated with buying a home. Qualified low income buyers may even receive a grant for up to 5 percent of the total mortgage amount.

Yesterday, the Chicago Sun-Times ran an opinion piece coauthored by Chicago’s Chief Financial Officer Carole Brown and City Treasurer Kurt Summers that lauded the merits of the mayor’s plan to see Chicago’s recent centralized growth spread to some of its depressed outlying communities. The city claims that it will provide an initial investment of $1 million to launch the Home Buyer Assistance Program with the hopes that it will become "self-sustaining" in the near future. Exactly how this will happen has not been clearly detailed.

Perhaps the mayor will use the cash from his February plan to charge real estate developers more in exchange for expanded downtown zoning boundaries. Maybe money will come from revenue created by new Lathrope TIF district that was quietly proposed last month?

While creating an easier path to private home ownership won’t hurt Chicago’s struggling neighborhoods, it remains to be seen how the program can address the lack of economic opportunity and the prevalence of violence that are currently the largest obstacles to revitalization in many communities. The city plans to release of list of lenders participating in the Home Buyer Assistance Program on April 15th.