EAST CHICAGO | The East Chicago Department of Redevelopment has a program in place to help increase home ownership in the city, a focus of Mayor Anthony Copeland's administration.
"Right now, the city of East Chicago is offering $10,000 in down payment assistance for the purchase of any existing home and $25,000 toward the purchase of any new home," said Nicholas Smith, compliance administrator for the Department of Redevelopment.
City employees and city agency employees are eligible for an extra $5,000 in assistance.
"When our mayor came in office, we were at about a 40 to 60 percent split where we had only 40 percent homeowners to 60 percent renters," he said. "So we're in an effort and an initiative to reverse that and get 60 to 70 percent homeowners and 30 to 40 percent renters."
Smith said the program so far has helped 45 households with down payment assistance, 33 of which were first-time home buyers. Fifteen of those purchasing homes used East Chicago lenders.
"Out of the households we've helped, by and large the majority of them have been first time homeowners," he said. "These are probably buyers that would have had some problem getting financed in the current financing environment, but with our assistance it was able to tremendously help them make the homes affordable and, in turn, the city is gaining home ownership."
Smith said a total of $538,231.57 in assistance has been provided since the program's inception.
Of that total, $343,231.57 has come from the City Homeownership Incentive Program, which is funded with gaming dollars.
A federal Home Investment Partnership grant has provided $65,000, and $130,000 came from a Lakefront tax increment financing fund.
"For any city to be strong and vibrant, you have to have homeowners there," Smith said. "When you have homeowners, you have better schools, you have better policing, you have better neighborhoods, better communities."
Anyone interested in learning more about the home ownership program can call Smith at (219) 391-8513.