Light­foot show­cases $33M in relief for renters and prop­erty own­ers

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY FRAN SPIELMAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER fspiel­man@sun­ | @fspiel­man

Three months af­ter un­veil­ing a non­bind­ing “Hous­ing Sol­i­dar­ity Pledge” that ap­peased no one, Mayor Lori Light­foot on Mon­day show­cased $33 mil­lion in relief for renters and prop­erty own­ers bankrolled by fed­eral stim­u­lus funds and lo­cal phi­lan­thropies.

Shortly af­ter the stay-at-home shut­down trig­gered by the coro­n­avirus, Light­foot of­fered 2,000 Chicagoans strug­gling to stay in their homes grants of $1,000 apiece. The $2 mil­lion was nowhere near enough to meet the de­mand from 83,000 ap­pli­cants.

Now, those who struck out in Round 1 will be “au­to­mat­i­cally trans­ferred” to a $25 mil­lion Round 2, “more than 10 times” the ini­tial in­vest­ment made by the Chicago Depart­ment of Hous­ing There is no need to reap­ply.

To­gether with $8 mil­lion from the Depart­ment of Fam­ily and Sup­port Ser­vices, Chicago is ded­i­cat­ing $33 mil­lion to “evic­tion and fore­clo­sure preven­tion,” of­fi­cials said.

“Thanks to this in­vest­ment, more Chicagoans will be able to stave off fore­clo­sure, evic­tion and home­less­ness and the pain and in­se­cu­rity that comes with it,” Light­foot told a City Hall news con­fer­ence.

“This is truly a spe­cial day for our city and our many fam­i­lies that will be hurt­ing just a lit­tle bit less.”

Hous­ing Com­mis­sioner Marisa No­vara said the city “self-funded” the $2 mil­lion first round of rental as­sis­tance grants “pre­cisely be­cause we did not know how long it was go­ing to take us . . . to put to­gether what we hoped was a stream of govern­ment funds that would help us to do more.”

To stave off a wave of fore­clo­sures, the city has set aside $3.5 mil­lion to pro­vide mort­gage as­sis­tance for strug­gling home­own­ers. That pro­gram, op­er­ated by Neigh­bor­hood Hous­ing Ser­vices of Chicago, will ear­mark up to $3,300 “di­rectly to lenders to cover past-due pay­ments, fu­ture pay­ments or both.”

To qual­ify, one must be an “owner-oc­cu­pant home­owner” en­dur­ing “COVID-19-re­lated fi­nan­cial hard­ship” and earn no more than 120% of the av­er­age me­dian in­come.

An­other $500,000 will bankroll “pro-bono at­tor­neys for COVIDim­pacted Chicagoans at im­me­di­ate risk of evic­tion” through the Lawyers Com­mit­tee for Bet­ter Hous­ing.

Well aware the al­pha­bet soup of as­sis­tance pro­grams can be con­fus­ing, a new on­line city por­tal has been estab­lished —

hous­inghelp — to help di­rect strug­gling Chicagoans to the hous­ing re­sources that best meet their needs.

The Cook County evic­tion mora­to­rium in place through­out the pan­demic ends Aug. 22.

“In to­tal, we an­tic­i­pate that our funds will as­sist a min­i­mum of 10,000 house­holds to stay in the places that they call home,” No­vara said.

On April 29, res­i­den­tial hous­ing groups, land­lord as­so­ci­a­tions and lenders signed a non­bind­ing “Hous­ing Sol­i­dar­ity Pledge” to show “flex­i­bil­ity and re­straint” in deal­ing with one an­other dur­ing this un­prece­dented time of hard­ship to pre­vent the pan­demic from trig­ger­ing an­other wave of fore­clo­sures.

No one was sat­is­fied be­cause it was only a pledge.

But with $1.1 bil­lion avalanche of fed­eral stim­u­lus funds, Chicago is now in a po­si­tion to de­liver more.

“What you see to­day is part­ner­ship with govern­ment, with non­prof­its across the city of Chicago to pro­vide needed, crit­i­cal re­sources for fam­i­lies to stay in their homes dur­ing the mid­dle of a pan­demic,” said Ald. Harry Oster­man (48th), chair­man of the City Coun­cil’s Hous­ing Com­mit­tee.

“This has an im­pact on fam­i­lies. But it also has an im­pact on com­mu­ni­ties.”

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