Becoming a homeowner

The Building Neighborhoods and Affordable Homes program (BNAH) encompasses the following community areas: Englewood Square, North Lawndale, South Lawndale, Humboldt Park/Garfield Park, and Woodlawn. The program provides purchase price assistance to owner-occupant homebuyers of a single-family home constructed under the City Lots for Working Families (CL4WF) program to help catalyze the homeownership markets and to help enhance revitalization efforts in the community areas. The maximum grant amount is $60,000. Visit this site for more information.

The Chicago Housing Trust (CHT), formerly called the Chicago Community Land Trust, provides working individuals and families with opportunities to purchase homes at prices they can afford. CHT is a partner in the ownership process, giving homeowners access to many of the benefits of traditional ownership, along with a network of support to help ensure their ongoing success. This long-term security and stability cannot be found in rental housing or even in market-rate homeownership. CHT’s homeownership program is designed to preserve the long-term affordability of its homes while providing homeowners with a return on their investment. Unlike renting, CHT ownership offers the opportunity to begin building equity.

The City Lots for Working Families program provides vacant, city-owned lots to developers of affordable single-family homes and two flats for $1 each. Eight to 20 city-owned lots with a maximum appraised value of $125,000 can be conveyed per developer for each project through the program. Lots are available to qualified buyers with incomes up to 140% of area median income (AMI). In addition, they must be the location of their primary residence for a minimum five-year occupancy period.

Housing Counseling Centers (HCC) delegate agencies are HUD-Certified Housing Counseling Agencies. Each has a HUD certified Housing Counselor who helps people achieve homeownership over time. Delegate Agencies provide an 8-hour homebuyer education course, which cover the homebuying process including: affordability; pros and cons of homeownership; budget and credit; mortgage loan types; and choosing a lender, real estate agent and homeowners’ insurance agent. HCC’s housing counselors also create personalized action plans for prospective buyers. Whether the prospective buyer is 18 months away from achieving homeownership or is ready to buy now, HCC agencies are highly trained to help each person achieve homeownership.

Keeping and maintaining your home

The Neighborhood Lending Program provides forgivable loans or grants between $3,000 and $25,000 to income-eligible borrowers (household income must be at or below 80% of the area median income) for home improvement, home ownership preservation, and home purchase and rehab projects. Visit this site for more information.

The Chicago Bungalow Association serves owners of single-family homes built at least 50 years ago. The program provides homeowners with free home energy upgrades, weatherization services and installation of free energy-saving products help increase comfort, lower utility bills, add value and extend the life of homes. Visit this site for more information.

The Emergency Heating Repair Program provides grants to eligible owner-occupants of one to four-unit residential buildings to assist them with emergency heating system repairs during the winter season. The average grant is $7,000 for households at 80% AMI or below.

The Foreclosure Prevention Program offers personalized foreclosure and post-purchase counseling and education to Chicago homeowners. HUD-Approved Housing Counseling Agencies have highly trained individually HUD-Certified Housing Counselors who provide personalized guidance to homeowners at risk of losing their homes. Housing counselors may also assist homeowners in communicating with their mortgage servicer including understanding the different loss mitigation options which may be available to them. 

For homeowners not at-risk of mortgage delinquency or foreclosure, individual counseling, and education to help the homeowner reach their housing related goal is available in various topics including: refinancing; property taxes; homeowners insurance; probate & estate; home maintenance; and much more.

Formerly known as the Roof and Porch Repair Program, the Housing Repair Program offers remediation of environmental health hazards (mold, asbestos, lead, etc.) and accessible repairs (roof and porch repair and replacement, repairs for occupants with disabilities). Grants are available for up to $24,999 for eligible applicants who own and occupy a one-to-four-unit residential property and whose households meet HUD income guidelines.

The Shared Cost Sidewalk Program is an extremely popular voluntary program in which property owners share the cost of sidewalk repair with the City. Thousands of Chicagoans have been a part of this popular program, taking advantage of the low cost, exceptional value, and ease of participation.

The Small Accessible Repairs for Seniors program provides enabling devices to one to four-unit residences occupied by low-and moderate-income people age 60 or older. The program addresses accessibility, safety, and security issues by providing much-needed upgrades, including grab bars, ramps, and other repairs so that seniors can maintain their independence. Grants for eligible applicants range from $1,000 to $15,000

Trees are more than beautiful: They help reduce smog and greenhouse gases, buffer street noise and absorb provide storm water, keep us cool and improve our property value. The benefits of trees are numerous and ever increasingly important in this age of climate change, in achieving a cleaner, greener, sustainable environment.  The City of Chicago’s Bureau of Forestry plants trees along the public right-of-way across the city. Chicago property owners who want a new tree planted on their parkways should call 311 or submit a request online to register for this free city service.

Troubled buildings - whether vacant or occupied— damage neighborhoods, depress property values and harbor crime, put tenants and neighbors at risk, and left unchecked, may trigger a cycle of neighborhood disinvestment and deterioration. Yet these same buildings, if turned around, can have a revitalizing effect on the surrounding community.   Buildings are referred to the program from many sources, including City departments, Aldermen, community organizations and concerned citizens. To report a troubled building call 311.  At the end of the call, ask the 311 operators for the “SR” or service request number. 

Being informed and ready

The Additional Dwelling Unit Pilot Program supports homeowners in acquiring additional income or to more easily age in place by adding one additional unit to their property. The homeowner can add a coach house or garden apartment without going through zoning. Financial assistance is available for qualifying homeowners. 

Federal, state, and local laws place restrictions on the income of households assisted through various Department of Housing (DOH) programs. According to the policies and regulations that guide each program, the maximum income level for DOH programs varies. The income limits above refer to total household income, which includes the income of all adults in the household. For different income levels or larger households, see the AMI chart. Income limits are for the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL HUD Metro FMR Area. Effective until superseded.

Visit this site for more information.

The homeowner protection ordinance protects owners from receiving forceful or harassing communication to sell their property.  Property owners must request the agent to stop communicating with them for 180 days. Those agents who do not comply can be fined up to $10,000 for each offense. Call 311, or click here, to report a complaint.

Available through participating lenders, the TaxSmart program provides a federal income tax credit to qualified homebuyers and homeowners— helping them save money on federal income taxes. In addition, it allows eligible applicants to claim tax credits for a portion of the mortgage interest paid per year. As of 2021, the current annual savings rate is 25% for new home purchases or 50% for home improvement or rehab loans; the tax credit is capped at $2,500 annually.  Visit this site for more information.

Helping renters

This list of affordable rental housing opportunities has been supported and developed through the City of Chicago to assist and guide individuals looking for affordable rental housing throughout the city. The Department of Housing remains committed to making our neighborhoods strong, safe and affordable for all Chicagoans. Visit this site for more information.

To meet the permanent housing needs of Chicago’s very low-income residents, Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund assists residents living in poverty (incomes not exceeding 30 percent of area median income) by providing secure, safe, sound and affordable housing. The Trust Fund serves Chicago’s low-income working households, the disabled, the elderly, and countless homeless individuals and families. Visit this site for more information.

The COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance requires landlords to make good faith efforts towards resolutions with tenants before moving ahead with an eviction filing, including offering repayment plans and third-party mediation. It requires landlords to wait for a seven-day “cooling-off” period in addition to the regular five-day notice period, when filing evictions against tenants due to nonpayment of rent whearas those tenants have coronavirus-related financial hardships. After the “cooling-off” period, landlords must show the court that they have engaged in good faith efforts to reach a reasonable alternative to eviction, including mediation, payment plans or other options before an eviction can proceed. Visit this site for more information.

The Rental Assistance Program is administered by the City of Chicago’s Dept. of Family and Support Services (DFSS). It provides short-term financial assistance for rent, utilities, arrears and other costs related to housing stability. In addition to financial assistance, residents also receive housing stability case management focused on budgeting and resolving issues that contributed to the initial housing crisis. Visit this site for more information.

The Fair Notice Ordinance was approved by the Chicago City Council in July 2020 and creates new rights and responsibilities for tenants and landlords to give Chicago renters more stability in their homes. Most importantly, the ordinance increases the amount of notice a landlord must give in order to non-renew or terminate a lease, or to raise a tenant’s rent. The ordinance also extends the amount of time during which a tenant may end an eviction filing against them by paying the rent they owe and their landlord’s court filing fees.

If your landlord moves to terminate your lease or raise your rent they must provide: 60 days’ notice if you’ve lived in your apartment between 6 months and 3 years; or, 120 days’ notice if you’ve lived in your apartment more than 3 years. Visit this site for more information.

The Chicago Department of Housing, in partnership with tenant and landlord organizations, formed the Renters’ Rights hotline to educate Chicagoans about the legal responsibilities and rights of renters and property owners. The hotline is available 24/7. 

The Tenants’ Rights hotline is managed by the Metropolitan Tenants Organization through support from the Chicago Department of Housing. It’s open Monday–Friday, 1:00–5:00 pm.

  • Renters’ Rights: 312.742.RENT (312.742.7368) 
  • Tenants’ Rights: 773.292.4988

Lockouts are illegal. Affected tenants should call 311 to file a formal police report detailing the lockout incident. A “lockout” has occurred any time a landlord does or threatens to take any of the following actions with regard to a residential tenant’s home or apartment:

Change or disable the locks; block any entrance; remove doors or windows; shut off or interfere with utility services, including heat, electricity, gas, hot or cold water, plumbing, and phone service; remove appliances or fixtures; remove the tenant’s personal property; use or threaten violence against the tenant or their property; any other act making the property inaccessible or uninhabitable. Visit this site for more information.

The Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund (CLIHTF) began its first and largest program, the Rental Subsidy Program, in 1990. Its focus is to provide annual subsidies to rental property owners to reduce rents for residents of Chicago who make less than 30% of the area median income. Homeowners and landlords are often recruited to participate in the program for their tenants who qualify. Visit this site for more information.

The Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) sets out the legal rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants for most rental properties. Adopted in 1986 and amended over the years, the ordinance covers key issues such as security deposits, landlord’s right of access, tenant’s responsibilities, and landlord/tenant remedies. It also requires that a summary copy of the RLTO be given to prospective tenants by the landlord and attached to each written lease agreement and lease renewal. Visit this site for more information.