Press "Enter" to skip to content

City plants beautification grants in hope of luring business

Submitted on Thu, 07/26/2007 – 13:41.
Story by Jamie Morgan

Three alderman representing the Midwest and Roosevelt-Homan TIF Districts have set aside nearly $3 million to help residents fix up the outside of their homes.

Homeowners in the districts, which roughly span east to west from Washington Boulevard to 16th Street and north to south from Western Avenue to Kostner Avenue, filled bright orange seats and stood against the walls in Marshall High School’s auditorium to hear more about the grant process.

Attendees urged speakers to raise their voices so everyone could hear, and got restless when questions from audience members dragged on too long.

Veteran Alderman Ed Smith (28th Ward) and City Hall newcomers Alderman Sharon Dixon (24th Ward) and Alderman Bob Fioretti (2nd Ward) joined with the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago in the hopes of bringing more business to neighborhoods like Lawndale, stricken with empty lots.

Tom Jackson, a loan officer from the Community Investment Corporation, said at the meeting that “these grants are to spur investment in the community.”

For that reason, the NHSC will focus on applicants looking to fix the exteriors of their homes. Interior improvements will be considered if there are health concerns like removing lead paint or replacing old, leaky pipes.

Other requirements include that the owner must actually live at the property within the TIFs, have property insurance and fall within a strict household income: $52,800 and less for a one-person household, up to $99,500 and less for an eight-person household.

Also, repeat grants are not available for people who received money from the Midwest and Roosevelt-Homan TIFs three years ago.

Jim Wheaton, director of programs and strategy for the NHSC, said that $225 million was divided among 180 people in 2004, which is about 30 percent of the 600 people who applied.

This year, with a bit more money, Wheaton projects that another 30 to 35 people could receive home improvement grants to repair windows, fix siding, replace roofs and apply exterior paint.

Residents have until Aug. 10 to apply, listing the improvements they want and a cost estimate. A public lottery will be held to determine recipients, and names will be drawn until the money runs out.

Wheaton says visiting 600 homes and judging which 200 need the most work is not an option.

“To be quite honest, there’s not enough time or money to do that,” he said. After names are selected, the city’s department of revenue will make sure none of the grantees have unpaid parking tickets or water bills.

The last step is a site visit. Wheaton says inspectors have to make sure that whatever work is being done to the house will make it a healthy and safe environment; if not, the owners can provide the rest of the money to make the house safe or the grant will be taken away.

For those who do not receive grants, Wheaton says, there are a number of home improvement loans available. These have a more-strict application process and must be paid back, often with interest.

But money with baggage could pose a problem to communities like North Lawndale, where about 41 percent of families are living below the poverty level, according to the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission.

“There’s really not many other grants programs out there,” said Wheaton.

But Fioretti is working on a beautification and facade program with the state for communities that he says may need some redevelopment. Participants can get up to a 50 percent rebate on exterior improvements made to their homes and businesses.

But he says that bringing in retail stores and attracting businesses to slow developing areas isn’t the only purpose of this program.

“It brings pride and commitment to the property and to the community,” he says. “All communities, even new communities need to be livened up sometimes.”

At Home Citywide Planning & Development Public West Side
24th ward 2nd ward alderman bob fioretti 28th ward alderman ed smith alderman sharon dixon housing neighborhood housing services of chicago tif

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *