Aldermen Back Plan To Help Police, Firefighters, Paramedics Buy Homes

CHICAGO (CBS) — The City Council Housing Committee has approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to encourage police officers, firefighters, and paramedics to move into high-crime neighborhoods in Chicago, in order to spur financial and emotional investment in those areas.

Deputy City Planning and Development Commissioner Anthony Simpkins told aldermen the plan would give eligible public safety personnel $30,000 loans to help them buy homes in more violent police districts. If they stay at least 10 years, the entire loan would be forgiven.

“The objective is to encourage first responders to live and to have a stake in the communities that they serve,” he said.

Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) said those are good goals, but he worries some police officers might gravitate toward the better neighborhoods in districts that have both high-crime inner city areas and safer upscale communities.

“I think this is a good program, and I’m willing to vote on it; but I really want you to take a hard look at it, and figure out how we make sure that people get to the areas in which we need this investment,” he said.

Ald. David Moore (17th) also said he was concerned public safety workers would simply pick the best neighborhoods in high-crime police districts.

“That’s very important to me that we go back and look at this, and try to designate certain percentages for a certain area for that encouragement,” he said.

Moore noted, if he were an officer buying a home in the 7th District on the South Side, “I’m picking Chatham over Englewood every day of the week.”

The city will commit $3 million to the program, which would allow for 100 public safety workers to participate. The Housing Committee approved the plan on a voice vote, and the full City Council could vote on the measure at its next meeting on June 28.

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