City officials outline affordable-housing spending

The Chicago Department of Community Development helped place and keep city residents in more than 4,400 units of housing from January through March, according to a first-quarter report presented to City Council members this morning.

The efforts, part of Chicago's five-year affordable-housing plan, cost more than $34 million, according to documents. Officials say they spent the money on development, financing and help with home repairs and improvements.

The expenditures are about 10 percent of what city officials plan to spend on housing this year. By the end of 2009, they say, their goal is to spend more than $324 million on 10,500 affordable housing units.

City officials approved the current five-year plan, the fourth of its kind since 1993, in January. By the middle of last year, according to documents, 61 percent of more than 39,000 units developed under the previous plans housed residents earning less than $37,700 for a family of four.

Officials say this year's first-quarter report comes amid signs of improvement in the housing market, badly broken last year during an economic recession and the subprime-mortgage meltdown. They presented it to aldermen more than four months after the quarter ended.

Ellen Sahli, first deputy commissioner at the department, says staff needed additional time to make financial projections included in the report. Problems in the housing market and the unconventional structure of some loans and grants made those projections more difficult than usual, she says.

"The first quarter was a challenge for all of us," Sahli says. She says she will present the report for the second quarter, ending in June, in "the next couple of weeks."

Results from the first quarter represent a variety of efforts to reach borrowers and prevent them from losing their homes and federal funding, according to documents.

In February, city officials hosted the first of six Borrower Outreach Days to help more than 200 residents avoid foreclosure through free counseling and loan modifications.

Also that month, President Barack Obama signed the federal stimulus bill, or the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The law includes funds for expanding community-development efforts and the creation and preservation of affordable housing.

In March, federal officials announced the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, known as Making Home Affordable. That program has two primary parts: a $75 billion loan-modification program expected to help four million homeowners nationwide, and $200 billion for refinancing, which will allow some homeowners to make payments that reflect lower home prices after the real-estate bust.

City officials say they teamed with nonprofit groups to help Chicago residents modify their loans through that program.

The city also received $55 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which allows officials to purchase foreclosed or abandoned homes in needy communities and rehabilitate, resell or redevelop them. Officials will buy up to 2,500 units through that program over the coming three to five years, according to a statement.


LOU GRANT, 08-11-2009

I'm a bit lost. To keep it simple, it appears that $34 million was spent in the first fiscal quarter of 2009 to house 4,400 families. How does that compare to previous quarters as a measure? (It's about $7,728 per family for a quarter, or about $2,576 per month. That's more than my mortgage payment. Why is that?)

J HENRY, 09-02-2009

I own a condo and have an outstanding balance of $140k, consisting of $104k primary and $36k secondary. I took the home equity to consolidate debts. At the time the property was valued at $163k but now it is valued at $134k. I'm looking to sell because i am engaged and will be moving into my fiancee's home. Check If I have a buyer who offers me within say $5-7k of the outstanding, can i agree to assume a loan on the residual and pay the bank the difference over time with interest? The same bank holds both mortgages.