The Department of Planning and Development is on track to meet its affordable housing goal of 8,200 units by the end of 2015, but it remains behind on its goal to increase the number of first time homeowners, according to Deputy Commissioner for Housing Lawrence Grisham’s testimony to the Housing and Real Estate Committee. The hearing was a report from him and a review of highlights of the 2015 Second Quarter Progress Report of the city’s five-year housing plan. DPD is the lead agency for the City’s affordable housing, housing preservation, and homebuyer assistance programs.

Committee Members Present: Chairman Joe Moore (49), Vice Chairman Pat Dowell (3), Gregory Mitchell (7), Raymond Lopez (15), David Moore (17), Michael Scott, Jr. (24), Deb Mell (33), James Cappleman (46).

Since the start of 2015, the City allocated over $151 million in funds to support more than 5,700 affordable housing units, representing 63% of the total affordable unit goal and 60% of the resource allocation goal for 2015. This includes the addition of four large-scale affordable housing projects the City Council approved funding for in the last quarter.

But DPD has only committed $12 million to help 180 households achieve or sustain homeownership. That amounts to 37% of the $33 million DPD had anticipated spending on the initiative this year.

Grisham attributed the continued lag in the home ownership numbers to a lack of demand, availability and affordability of homes in neighborhoods that have yet to rebound from the recession. He said DPD kept the higher than expected target for the homebuyer programs because the department anticipates increased interest in the near future.

“We are, in fact, beginning to see an uptick in activity in both our loan programs and other programs related to home ownership,” Grisham said.

But the discussion on DPD’s affordable housing progress report was only a portion of the nearly two hour meeting, as time was set aside to discuss the city’s Troubled Building Initiative (TBI) after several public commenters criticized the program at the last quarterly briefing in June. TBI was designed to address problems with negligent landlords and crumbling housing stock. Through the courts, a judge can appoint a receiver (i.e. developer) to take over and rehabilitate the property. Critics say the process, which takes over a year, is too long, and local community groups were kept in the dark when receivers were chosen.

Several South Side aldermen at yesterday’s hearing echoed those concerns, saying they too would like to be kept in the loop when foreclosed or dilapidated buildings in their wards go through this process.

Bryan Esenberg, Assistant Housing Commissioner, said the city has had a hard time finding eligible developers, since they are required to front redevelopment costs totaling millions before getting reimbursed from the city.