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State gets $114 million for ‘hardest hit’ by housing collapse

Treasury Department officials on Friday released $114 million to Illinois agencies to aid homeowners and neighborhoods still struggling due to the 2008 financial meltdown.

That sum comes on top of nearly $450 million paid to Illinois since 2010 from the federal government’s Hardest Hit Fund — an $8 billion pool of money created as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The money can be used for programs that help homeowners modify underwater mortgages, demolish homes or help first-time buyers, though the Illinois Housing Development Authority has yet to determine how the $114 million released Friday will be spent.

“At this time, we have not determined how we will utilize this funding, but we will consider augmenting current and past programs as well as exploring innovative uses through the creation of new programs,” spokeswoman Cami Freeman said Friday. The Treasury Department will have final approval of the state’s plan.

Of the 18 states that receive Hardest Hit Fund dollars, only California, Florida and Michigan have received more than than Illinois. Treasury Department reports show nearly 14,000 Illinois homeowners have received assistance through Hardest Hit programs, nearly 90 percent of whom had incomes lower than $50,000.

In a statement Friday, Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk said he “led the charge” to release the funds in the 2016 omnibus funding bill.

“I advocated for this funding because vacant and dilapidated buildings attract crime and block economic growth.” The $118 million will reduce crime, he added, and promote economic development.

Kirk has three Democrats — Rep. Tammy Duckworth, state Sen. Napoleon Harris and former Chicago Urban League president Andrea Zopp — vying to challenge him in the general election in November.