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Illinois has $300 million to help renters, homeowners catch up on payments
The money—$5,000 for renters and up to $15,000 for homeowners—is a way to forestall massive waves of eviction and foreclosure caused by the pandemic, an official said.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020
Crain's Chicago Business
by Dennis Rodkin

The state of Illinois is unveiling a $300 million fund to help people who have fallen behind on the rent or the mortgage because of COVID-19.

The money, part of the $3.5 billion that Illinois received from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, “will help make people whole who were suddenly hit with income loss or unemployment by the COVID-19 crisis,” said Kristin Faust, executive director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority, which is administering the program.

The grants should “help stabilize people in their homes, which is where we need to be during this pandemic,” Faust said, and by preventing evictions and foreclosures, “stabilize landlords and communities."

In July, the US Census Department reported that about 28 percent of adults in Illinois were not confident they could make their next housing payment.

An Aspen Institute study found that in Illinois, 20 percent of rental households, or over 775,000 people, would be at risk of eviction in the third quarter of 2020 if it were not for the statewide moratorium on evictions. In July, Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended the moratorium through Aug. 22. When the moratoriums expire, housing policy experts say, not only Illinois but much of the nation could face a tidal wave of evictions.

Foreclosure of homeowners is a longer process, particularly in Illinois and other states where it’s a judicial action.

In either case, an IHDA grant “can prevent this from happening to you while we’re in the midst of a pandemic,” Faust said. “There is no shame in taking this kind of help. Everyone was caught unawares.”

For renters who qualify, $5,000 will be paid directly to their landlord. Applications for the Emergency Rental Assistance program open Aug. 10 at this website and close Aug. 21. An application requires the landlord to upload some information in support of the renter’s claim.

Homeowners who qualify can get up to $15,000 sent directly to their mortgage servicer. Applications for the Emergency Mortgage Assistance program open Aug. 24 at this website and close Sept. 4. Applicants must owe $425,000 or less on their mortgage, and the property must be their primary residence.

Both programs have household income limitations, spelled out on their separate websites. They also require applicants to provide evidence that they were up to date on their housing payments prior to the crisis, and only fell behind since then.

Pritzker is expected to promote the program at a press conference early next week, Faust said, and in recent days her agency has been getting the word out to housing agencies, landlord groups and others.

The IHDA assistance “will buy us time so we don’t go over a cliff” of evictions, said Rob Anthony, president of the not-for-profit Community Partners for Affordable Housing, based in Libertyville. Anthony’s group, which serves Lake County and northern Cook County, is among those that IHDA has trained on the program and will help applicants.

In the months since the pandemic crisis began in March, Anthony said, his organization has been receiving “five times as many calls for help than we did before March,” he said.

Faust said her research indicates that the state’s $300 million is the largest amount any state has used from its CARES Act funding to support housing payments. The reason, she said, is that “we have a governor who cares deeply about keeping everybody housed during this crisis.” She expects to disburse funds, $150 million each for the renter program and the homeowner program, until the pot is depleted.



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