Housing advocates got a major victory in City Council Wednesday after winning overwhelming support for the Vacant Building TIF Purchase and Rehabilitation Ordinance. It included an amendment applauded by affordable housing advocates, although they acknowledge the push for the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance will have to be re-started under the new mayor and council.
The passed ordinance allows residents with a household income no greater than 100 percent of the regional median income to apply for a tax increment financing (TIF) grant that would pay for up to 25 percent of the cost of purchasing and rehabilitating an empty residential property. Single-family empty homes or units in condo and cooperative buildings with four units or fewer are eligible. The empty homes must be located in a TIF district and must be in need of at least $25,000 in fix-up costs, the ordinance states. Homebuyers would be required to live in the property they are purchasing and must be first-time buyers. The full city council would have to approve each and every grant.
The newly-passed legislation also calls for TIF money to be available for vacant multi-unit properties, on the condition that the developer will rehab it and offer it as affordable housing, according to Julie Dworkin of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. This piece of the ordinance is a nod to the Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance that was eventually stalled to death. The Sweet Home ordinance was considered one of the most substantial affordable housing bills City Council has debated in years, and in its original form proposed reserving at least 20 percent of the City of Chicago's annual take from its many tax increment financing districts for affordable housing projects, including foreclosure mitigation. That amendment was added to the passed ordinance in the last several days and was spearheaded by the newly-appointed Commissioner of the Department of Housing and Economic Development Andy Mooney -- something Dworkin says is a good sign for the future of the Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance in the new administration.