Start the new year by getting help buying or repairing your home

December 29, 2020
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Karale Williams became a proud homeowner with the help of a $35,000 grant he used to buy a house in Austin.

Williams was renting in North Lawndale before buying his home two years ago – thanks to two grants he received, one through Wells Fargo’s Neighborhood LIFT program and the other through the Neighborhood Lending Program. These are two of several programs available to Chicago and/or Cook County residents wanting to purchase a home.

Through Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, Williams also took an eight-hour home-buyer education course and a landlord class, too.

He urges people to educate themselves on what’s available, noting there’s a lot of help out there if someone only looks.

Another program offered by the city is the Micro-Market Recovery Program, an initiative that focuses on Austin and nine other Chicago neighborhoods.

Funding has been exhausted for 2020, but applications will be accepted again starting early next year. The program is on a first come, first serve basis. At least four Austin residents received the grant in 2020.

The Micro-Market Recovery Program helps people wanting to buy their own home as well those needing to make repairs on a home they already own. Austin residents are eligible for targeted home improvement grants like roof or porch repairs and other exterior restorations. The grant is available through the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago.

First-time home buyers or people who have not owned a home in the last three years are also eligible for support. Those who qualify can receive up to $15,000 in down payment assistance.

Nicole Marcus, Austin Coming Together‘s Micro-Market Recovery Program intern, said the goal of these programs is to reduce vacancies and to bring properties back to active use. Home ownership is about planting roots and investing in the community, she said.

“Part of the excitement of putting vacant properties into productive reuse is filling in those holes that are on blocks and in our community.”

There are also weatherization programs for people who already own homes but need help with the upkeep.

The Chicago Bungalow Association has an “Energy Savers” program that helps pay the costs of insulation and other energy-saving measures that cut monthly energy bills. Each year, the group helps the owners of about 700 homes.

Although it’s called the Chicago Bungalow Association, the group’s services are available to all types of homes, not just bungalows, that are at least 50 years old.

Another organization focusing on home repairs, Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly (HOME), assists seniors with home improvement; they help about 150 households per year.

The emergency heating repair program is available until April 1st. Income-eligible applicants may have their furnaces repaired or replaced.

Similarly, CEDA has a weatherization program for Cook County residents to help them reduce energy costs and make their homes safer.

CEDA is also offering utility and water and sewer bill assistance that includes a 50 percent reduction rate, no shut-offs and debt forgiveness after one year in the program.

For individuals considering buying a home in Austin, it’s not to early to start the pre-approval process.

Working with the West Cook Homeownership Center, home buyers can take an education course to get pre-approved for a mortgage.

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