The Chicago Micro-Market Recovery Program (MMRP), an initiative of the Chicago Department of Housing (DOH), today announced that South Shore will become a service community for its down payment assistance and homeowner improvement grant programs. South Shore has an especially large stock of condominiums, and many who live in condos in the community are on fixed incomes and struggle to stay in their homes and may benefit from the program. The program will serve the community’s O’Keefe area, 67th – 71st, between Jeffery Blvd and South Shore Drive.
The Neighborhood Network Alliance (The NNA), a community engagement organization in South Shore, is the delegate agency for the program in partnership with South Shore Works and the South Shore Chamber of Commerce. The NNA conducts outreach in the community and connects residents to the program.
“We are very excited to be in alignment and partnering with the city on this program, which will provide timely and much-needed support for homeowners in South Shore who want to stay in the community,” says Val Free, Chief Executive Officer of The NNA . “Stabilizing the housing stock in South Shore continues to be an absolutely pivotal issue in our community.”
Free adds that The NNA’s focus on housing is a key part of the organization’s broader strategy to address public safety issues. The NNA also holds public safety events that bring the community together, works to advance equitable broadband in South Shore, and serves as the project manager for the South Shore Quality of Life Project (QLP), which builds local capacity among community stakeholders to drive equitable change and investment in neighborhoods.
Program targets communities hit hard by disinvestment
The MMRP program includes 10 South and West side neighborhoods where decades of disinvestment, redlining, systemic racism and lack of opportunities have left many areas distressed. MMRP assists in rebuilding these communities by reducing the cost of homeownership, creating communities of choice, and attracting new owners.
Since 2016, MMRP has awarded 62 $15,000 down payment assistance grants totaling $930,000. Through its home improvement grant program, MMRP has awarded 315 home improvement grants totaling nearly $7 million since 2014. With the new South Shore community service area, MMRP is on target to assist 40 more families with home improvement grants and another 13 new homebuyers in 2022 for a total of $1.2 million.
Program can help fight displacement
The population of South Shore has declined in recent decades, though the community has also long been a coveted home for many over the years, with assets like the lakefront, transportation, and architecture as well as undeveloped commercial areas. At a time of expected development resulting from the nearby Obama Presidential Center, many have voiced concerns about how to address possible displacement in South Shore.
Growing emphasis on housing
The city program is a powerful addition to growing efforts to promote housing in South Shore. The Center for Shared Ownership, a collaboration between the Chicago Community Loan Fund and the Chicago Rehab Network, will provide the leadership, training, and technical assistance to preserve and expand the stock of shared equity housing.
The NNA has also played a central role in collecting housing survey data from community residents in South Shore. Data has been collected through the South Shore Housing Data Initiative. The NNA is partnering with the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and Office of Civic Engagement on this effort, as well as South Shore Works, the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, and Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago. Survey findings point to high property vacancy, the extent of at-risk renters, homeownership challenges, and opportunities for development.
“It’s important that we bring the eyes and ears of people in the city to the work we are doing on housing, and the MMRP program will be an important part of that work,” says Gerald Williams, a community resident, Board Chair of The NNA, and as a longtime real estate broker and appraiser in the city. (His parents once owned a condo in South Shore). Williams is leading a network of housing experts in the community that is making recommendations based on findings in the South Shore Housing Initiative.
Focus on condos
In South Shore, the foreclosure crisis of 2008 impacted the community’s condo associations, adds Williams. “When you have multiple vacancies due to foreclosure as well as mismanagement, that creates a dilemma. But for many people, their condo is the single largest investment they have. So you can see that if condo associations aren’t healthy, you don’t have a healthy housing marketplace.”
LaShawn Brown, a housing advocate in South Shore, points to the impact the MMRP program can have in South Shore. Brown consults on the MMRP for The NNA and also chairs the South Shore Works Housing Working Group. (She is also the founder of The Village Network, which houses the Chicago Housing Expo). “It’s critical that residents in the community have opportunities to preserve homeownership,” she says. “We’ve been focused on this issue for years.”
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