Chicago Housing Authority CEO Eugene E. Jones Jr. joined new homeowner Niesha Chism, marking National Homeownership Month andcelebrating Chism’s recent purchase of her South Chicago home through the CHA’s Choose to Own program.
Chism, the mother of three, is one of more than 600 residents who have purchased a house through the CTO program, which allows participants to use a housing subsidy toward their mortgage payment.
For Chism, it was a sweet homecoming: She was able to buy the house next door to her childhood home where her parents still live.
“Our program and the success of homebuyers like Ms. Chism would not be possible without the support of our partners like Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (NHS) and LUCHA, who work tirelessly to help Chicagoans reach their goals and fulfill their dreams of homeownership,” Jones said. “They also share CHA’s mission of creating more affordable housing opportunities and ensuring greater access to those opportunities as we work to build strong, stable neighborhoods across the city.”
Joining Jones and Chism were Marisa Novara, Housing Commissioner for City of Chicago’s Department of Housing; Juan Carlos Linares, the Executive Director of LUCHA and the incoming Chief Engagement Officer for the City of Chicago; HUD Regional Administrator James Cunningham; Celena Santiago, a counselor from NHS who guided Ms. Chism through the homeownership process; and Raisa Alicea, also from LUCHA.
After several challenging years away, it was a relief for Chism to return to the South Chicago community she knew and loved.
“It was a huge deal,” said Chism, an IT project analyst for Metra. “Homeownership was something that had been on my mind for the last couple of years. So, I was excited. I looked at my kids and cried because I was able to give them something steady, something we could call home.”
The 17-year-old CTO program allows qualified public housing families or those participating in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program to use a portion of their rent payments to accumulate equity and offset a portion of their mortgage – the same way a voucher is used to offset a portion of rent.
Through a variety of community partnerships, participants are provided a comprehensive support network that includes financial assistance, homebuyer education, credit counseling and other services that help the families navigate the process and increase their chances of success as a homeowner.
Chism received homebuyers counseling from NHS; legal representation from the LUCHA and financing from Wintrust Mortgage. She qualified for down payment and closing costs from the Illinois Housing Development Authority and Lift Funds.
Chism earned a bachelor’s degree in 2010. But, after experiencing financial difficulties, she rented in the private market through the HCV program.
She returned to school in 2016 and earned a Master’s degree in finance. Simultaneously, she did IT purchasing for a truck and trailer company that saw her traveling anywhere from Indiana and Georgia to Florida and Texas. She finally landed a job with Metra – but realized she would have to exit the HCV program because of increased earnings.
In November, she saw that the house next to her childhood home in South Chicago was on the market. She contacted the seller, swiftly made a deal, and closed on the house in April .
Now, she has a support system that she could not have imagined before – her parents, who live next door and provide child care for her children, ages 14, 10 and 2.