EDITORIAL: Housing aid shouldn’t buy pricey digs in trendy neighborhoods

SHARE EDITORIAL: Housing aid shouldn’t buy pricey digs in trendy neighborhoods
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The owner of a T-shirt business got a $25,020 city grant to help him buy this $500,000 bungalow a block from Wrigley Field. | Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times

Should taxpayer dollars be used to help somebody buy a half-million-dollar home in a trendy neighborhood?

Raise your hand if you work every day, spent years scraping together a down payment and pay your mortgage out of your own pocket — but you’re still OK with that. 

It’s too late to say no, though. 

A $25,000 city housing assistance grant already helped one man who owns a T-shirt business buy a $500,000 bungalow in Wrigleyville through a program that’s supposed to target buyers with “low to moderate incomes.”

EDITORIAL

And that’s just one of a number of questionable grants, according to a Watchdogs report by Tim Novak of the Sun-Times, that the city made through a program run by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Infrastructure Trust.

There’s also the $16,490 grant that went toward a $340,000 condo in Lincoln Park and the $21,137 that went toward a $445,000 home on the Northwest Side.

And maybe we shouldn’t even mention the $56,890 in grants that went toward the purchase of seven suburban homes. The city says that was just a silly mistake.

Are we really helping “low to moderate income” homebuyers here, such as a family looking to buy a house in Gage Park so the kids can play in a safe back yard?

Probably not, or not often enough. Not when the annual income limit for these grants is $131,775.

You read that right: $131,775.

We’re not experts on housing assistance, so we can’t say precisely what the top income should be for a program like this. But nobody pulling in a six-figure income should qualify for home-buying aid. That’s not help for families of modest means — it’s a lure for mortgage companies to favor wealthier, low-risk buyers at their expense.

Altogether, 218 households received more than $1.6 million in grants since the program was begun in 2016. Yet city officials say they don’t have crucial information, such as the incomes or assets of those households, or even where the homebuyers work. We can’t fathom why not.

City Hall insists the program has helped a diverse group of Chicagoans buy homes in 47 of 50 wards.

Terrific. So show us all the economic evidence that this program has achieved its worthy goals.

The city could have done other stuff with that $1.6 million, though we know it’s a drop in the budget bucket. The city could have hired more cops or food inspectors or filled more potholes.

Oh, well. There is this: One lucky guy bought a half-million-dollar home with a kick-in from the city and now he can walk to Cubs games.

At least somebody made out.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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