During 29th Ward Ald. Chris Taliaferro’s March 7 community meeting, held at the Columbus Park Rectory, 5701 W. Jackson Blvd., Victoria Vann — an account manager with the Illinois Housing Development Authority — said that her agency has many programs that help Austin residents buy and keep their homes. 

The problem, she said, is that many West Side home owners don’t know the programs even exist, so they don’t take advantage of them. 

Those IHDA programs include one that offers assistance for first-time homebuyers during the home closing process and a range of services that help people who are refinancing their mortgages.

Vann said that she’s on a mission to educate residents about the resources offered by IHDA — a state agency that uses a combination of federal funds, state grants and state funds generated through certain fees to help Illinois residents buy and keep their homes. 

Most of the home buyers and home owners who take advantage of IHDA programs live in suburbs like Schaumburg and Naperville, Vann said, adding that she wanted to make sure Austin residents get their shot at the resources as well.  

“I just want to penetrate this market so everybody has an opportunity to take advantage of these programs,” Vann said. “It’s not used in the City of Chicago as much as the suburbs and that’s why I’m here before you.”

Vann said that the IHDAccess mortgages are divided into three types — forgivable, deferred and repayable. The forgivable mortgage is a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, and applicants can apply for up to $6,000 in down payment assistance. 

If they stay in a house for at least 10 years, they won’t have to pay back the down payment assistance, but if they sell the house before then, they can either pay it off gradually or repay it all at once. 

The deferred IHDAccess mortgage is similar, except that applicants can get up to $7,500 in down payment assistance. They must pay back the amount over the next 30 years. Vann explained that it’s up to the applicants to decide exactly how much they would pay back and how often. She said that they could even pay off the down payment before 30 years are up, if they choose. The applicants, however, must have a credit score of at least 640. 

The repayable mortgage allows applicants to get up to $10,000 in repayment assistance, but in this case applicant must repay the assistance amount in regular monthly payments. 

The 1st Home Illinois program offers a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage for borrowers, who can get up to $7,500 to help cover the down payment and closing costs. Unlike IHDAccess mortgages, this assistance is a grant, so the borrowers wouldn’t have to pay it all back. HomeIllinois is limited to first-time home buyers or residents who haven’t owned homes in the last three years. Veterans can apply for it no matter whether they’ve bought a home before or not.

With both HomeIllinois and IHDAccess mortgages, the home purchase price can’t go above certain limits. A one-unit property can’t cost more than $336,706 and the two-unit properties can’t cost more than $431,033. 

The I-REFI program offers up $50,000 in federal assistance to help home owners refinance their mortgages into something more affordable. They must be current on their mortgage for at least 12 months and their home value must be within the limits mentioned in the previous paragraph. 

All three programs are subject to income caps. Usually, the applicants must have an income of no more than $94,800. If the applicants are able to get a Mortgage Credit Certificate, which would entitle them to certain tax credits, the limit goes down to $79,000 for households with 1 to 2 people, and to $90,850 for households bigger than that.

Finally, IHDA offers a reverse mortgage assistance program to help seniors who have federal reverse mortgages on their primary residence and who may owe money in real estate taxes. The seniors must have incomes of less than 120 percent of Cook County’s median income, which is currently $56,902.

Vann explained that seniors can get up to $35,000 in financial assistance. If they stay in their home for at least five years, they won’t have to pay any of that back.

For more information about these IHDA programs, visit ihda.org. Vann said that any interested residents can contact her directly by phone at (312) 836-5362 or e-mail at vvann@ihda.org,

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com  

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...