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Can Free Homes For Police Officers, Firefighters, Teachers Curb Violence?

 Cook County Board Commissioner Richard Boykin
Cook County Board Commissioner Richard Boykin
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Courtesy of Commissioner Boykin's office

ENGLEWOOD — Free homes would be given to teachers, police officers and firefighters under a new proposal introduced by Cook County Board Commissioner Richard Boykin if they commit to work — and live — in what he calls “endangered communities.”

The deal would be offered in Englewood, Austin, Garfield Park, Auburn Gresham and Back of the Yards, Boykin said, and those getting the incentive would have to agree to live and work in the neighborhood for at least five years. Those who already live in the neighborhood would have to commit to staying another five years.

Boykin will discuss his proposal, “The Neighborhood Revitalization Act,” at the Englewood Quality of Life Task Force’s meeting from 5:30-7 p.m. Friday at 6002 S. Halsted St.

Boykin said the idea came out of his "Endangered Communities Listening Tour" last year in which he visited multiple communities, including Englewood.

“People said they wanted police officers who lived in the community, who looked like them, to police their community,” Boykin said. “We said it made sense to provide free homes for [them] so that they can help rebuild, restabilize and revitalize those endangered communities.”

The deal would be open to police officers, firefighters, teachers, emergency medical technicians and other "first responders," he said.

“The neighborhood is going to come up because you’re going to have professionals coming back,” he said.

In addition to bringing in professionals to the neighborhoods, the program would help eliminate vacant lots and abandoned buildings and reduce crime in the process, Boykin said.

The program would also create jobs by requiring developers to give at least 30 percent of the construction jobs on the homes to at-risk youth from those communities.

“I’m excited about what’s going to happen in terms of revitalization in these communities,” he said. “These are neighborhoods that have been disinvested in for decades. It’s time for them to come back.”

The program would be implemented through the Cook County Land Bank, which buys abandoned buildings and vacant lots and then redevelops them. The earliest it could be approved by the Cook County Board would be March or April, he said.

Messages for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Englewood Quality of Life Housing Task Force member Leon Walker weren't immediately returned.