Park Forest Partners With Habitat for Humanity To Reduce Vacant Homes, Assist Families

Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)— The Village of Park Forest has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to purchase and rehabilitate several vacant, foreclosed homes and sell the properties to income qualified families. A recent award of $500,000 from Cook County will fund the purchase and rehabilitation efforts.

The Village will look to rehabilitate five to seven currently vacant, banked-owned properties with Habitat for Humanity identifying qualified homeowners.

Director of Economic Development and Planning Hildy Kingma says the Village selected Habitat for Humanity as a partner based on several factors.

“Habitat has the capability of being a turn-key developer for us. They have relationships with banks that own homes in Park Forest. They are very experienced with the rehab process…have many relationships with organizations because they are not-for-profit, and they also receive many gifts in-kind,” said Kingma.

According to the terms of the grant, the Village is required to sell the homes for at least one percent less than appraised value.  However, based on a calculation done by Cook County, Park Forest homes will be allowed to be sold for 15 percent less than the appraised value.

“We want to help families who are living in substandard conditions, and that could be defined as  paying too much for rent. Most families’ rent is expensive now days—even for substandard income. They could be paying 50 to 60 percent of income on rent, leaving them almost nothing for the other daily necessities. When they get a Habitat Home, their payment will be 30 percent (of income),” said David Tracy, Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity Chicago South Suburbs. In response to a question by Trustee Kopycinski, Mr. Tracy said that, in addition to financial and other qualifiers, applicants will have to pass a criminal background check.

A provision allows the homes to be rental properties under the ownership of Habitat for Humanity in the event a qualified buyer is not identified with six months.

Kingma does not believe this provision will come into play based on Habitat’s track record and ability to find qualified homeowners.

“They already have four or five partner families and they counsel those families on what it means to be a homeowner.  We will be getting these homes rehabbed and occupied by people who truly have the backing to be successful homeowners,” Kingma said.

In August of 2009, the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association submitted an application to Cook County for Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds. The Village of Park Forest, one of over 20 communities that make up the South Suburban Housing and Community Development Collaborative, learned in November of 2009 that the application had been approved for a $8.9 million dollar award.  Eleven of the Collaborative communities received grant allocations with this award.  Since then, the Village has looked to lay the groundwork to utilize its $500,000 share of the award.

Two agreements approved by Village Board members in June allow Park Forest and Habitat for Humanity to move forward with the project.

During the meeting, Trustee Georgia O’Neill voiced her excitement about reducing the number of vacant homes while providing affordable, quality housing to families.

“It sounds like a win-win all the way around.”

Source: Village of Park Forest