Victoria Gaspar explains the programs of the Southwest Home Equity Assurance program at the Wednesday, June 19, meeting of the McKinley Park Development Council.

Interest-Free $10K Home Loan Access Detailed at Development Council Meeting

Published June 30, 2019

Many McKinley Park neighborhood homeowners have access to locally focused development programs designed to improve and protect the value of their homes, attendees learned at the Wednesday, June 19, meeting of the McKinley Park Development Council. The Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program is a State of Illinois initiative designed to support property values, said program Executive Director Victoria Gaspar, and it offers other services such as an interest-free $10,000 home improvement loan.

"This is our most popular program," she said, noting that this was one of many low- or no-interest loans available to group members. These loans, ranging in size from $1,000 to $30,000, come alongside the program's original service of ensuring home values, Gaspar said, which will actually pay claims to homeowners if their property values fall.

Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program district mapThe map of the Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program district displays the neighborhoods it covers.McKinley Park neighborhood homeowners with a property between one and six units in size and within the assurance district's boundaries — about half of the neighborhood west of an irregular north-south line starting at Wood Street — already pay for the program through their property taxes, Gaspar said. Those who qualify will have "SW Home Equity Assurance" listed as a levy on their real estate tax bill.

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It's free to join the assurance program, she said, but participation requires a recent assessment of the home's value, a service homeowners can get through the association. Once a member, a homeowner can apply to receive monetary payouts if the value of their home falls below certain percentages, as well as apply for the program's special low- and no-interest home improvement loans. In 2015, the scope of these loans was expanded to include flood control projects.

A creation of Illinois state law, the Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program has been running since 1988 and currently counts nearly 2,900 members, Gaspar said. They've paid out over 120 claims for fallen home values and given out over 1,000 loans.

Eligible residential property owners are encouraged to take advantage of this program, which they already pay for in their taxes, Gaspar said. In addition to about half of the McKinley Park neighborhood, the assurance program's district covers several neighborhoods to the south and west, stretching as far west as the Garfield Ridge neighborhood and as far south as the Ashburn neighborhood.

McKinley Park's Own Ailey Solar

Jack Ailey of Ailey Solar, a McKinley Park-based installer of photovoltaic power systems, also spoke at the June 19 council meeting about his business and the changing nature of the solar power marketplace. "Now is the best time to get solar," Ailey said, since the U.S. federal tax credit for solar installations will begin sunsetting next year.

Right now, new solar incentives "can cut the cost of a system by 60 percent in the first year," Ailey said, by leveraging both these federal tax credits and the Solar Renewable Energy Credits offered by the State of Illinois, which provides incentive payments for every 1,000 kilowatt-hours produced by a solar installation.

Ailey said many of the residential systems he designs and installs are intended to generate as much electricity as the house uses and employ "net metering" to feed power from the house back up into the electrical grid when the house is producing more solar power than it consumes.

Environmental concerns were the impetus for starting the business, Ailey said, with him and his business partner both serving as founding members of the influential Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (P.E.R.R.O.). They started Ailey Solar in 2012 and have been conducting residential solar installations for six years. "We believe renewable energy is very important for the planet," Ailey said.

In addition to being a licensed electrician, Ailey said he and his company have received special certification for solar photovoltaic installations.

Development Council Elections

Council President John Belcik reminded attendees of the upcoming McKinley Park Development Council Meeting on July 17, which will feature elections for current and new board members. Any qualified McKinley Park resident or business owner who wishes to get involved and has attended at least two council meetings in the past year is encouraged to run, Belcik said. The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at the McKinley Park field house, 2210 W. Pershing Road.

Jack Ailey Ailey Solar McKinley Park Development Council meeting 20190619Jack Ailey of Ailey Solar discusses solar tax credits at the Wednesday, June 19, meeting of the McKinley Park Development Council, held at Bethany Baptist Church.

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McKinley Park Advisory Council FUNdraiser, 2016