COLLINSVILLE — Gov. Pat Quinn touted a state loan program for low-income, first-time home buyers during a stop Thursday in Collinsville.
The Democratic governor visited a Norwood Avenue home with a Collinsville woman who is taking advantage of the Welcome Home Illinois loan program. Quinn said the program is "targeted to everyday families -- folks who work hard." But Quinn's opponent in the November election said the program is just a rerun of previous programs offered by the state.
The program provides $7,500 of state money in down-payment assistance, as well as interest rates as low as 3.875 percent for a 30-year fixed mortgage.
The home-buyer, Danielle Poehling, 27, said she and her boyfriend were wanting to buy a home, when her boyfriend's father saw an article about the loan program in the newspaper. Poehling said she worried about being able to come up with a down payment for a home loan.
"With this program, you don't have to," said Poehling, an administrative assistant for a lending company in Clayton, Mo.
Quinn, up for re-election in November, pounded on the theme of middle-class and low-income families deserving to achieve the American dream of home-ownership. His opponent in the election is multimillionaire businessman Bruce Rauner, a Republican.
"We want to spread the gospel. The gospel means good news, and it's very good news for anybody who wants to be a homeowner, and is maybe living paycheck-to-paycheck, raising kids, working a job. We don't want to have folks left out," Quinn said.
Rauner's campaign said Quinn's visit was a campaign maneuver that featured a recycled idea. Rauner's camp noted that Quinn launched a similar program, called Illinois Home Start, in 2009, and Quinn's predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, launched a similar program called the I-Loan Mortgage in 2005.
The program has income qualifications. In the metro-east, a family of three, for example, would need to have annual household income below $82,915.
Quinn dismissed the notion that such loans are risky. With him at the news conference was Mary R. Kenny, director of the state's Housing Development Authority, who said the agency has enjoyed an excellent success rate with similar loan programs in the past. She said the buyers are credit-worthy, but banks nowadays have stringent requirements on issuing loans.
Quinn said there is "a long story in America -- that we believe in the middle class." He added that home-buying and home ownership help the economy.
Quinn, asked by a reporter if the state can afford the program with its current fiscal shape, noted that the $130 million for the program comes from a capital bill, which is used for special projects and is funded by taxes on alcohol, candy, soft drinks and beauty products.
Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said Quinn is trying to avoid answering questions about hiring practices at the Illinois Department of Transportation that allegedly broke laws.
"After claiming he would bring transparency to state government, Pat Quinn is blocking the public from learning the truth about his administration's Blagojevich-style state job patronage scheme," Schrimpf said. "Another day, another broken promise from Quinnocchio -- it's what we should expect from someone who rose from ghost payroller tolieutenantgovernor under two criminal administrations."
Information about the loan program is available at www.welcomehomeillinois.gov.
About the Welcome Home Illinois loan program:
* Provides $7,500 in state money to low-income buyers for use as a down-payment on a home loan, as well as an interest rate as low as 3.875 percent for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage.
* Who qualifies? Low-income home buyers. The income guidelines vary by location. In Collinsville, a three-person family, for example, would need to have an annual household income below $82,915.
* Available at the following banks: First Integrity Mortgage Services in Swansea, First County Bank in O'Fallon, USA Mortgage in Swansea, First National Bank of St. Louis in Godfrey, First Collinsville Bank in Highland, Gershman Investment Corp. in O'Fallon, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Shiloh and Highlands Residential Mortgage in Maryville.
* Where does the money come from? Funds for the $130 million come from a special tax on alcohol, candy, soft drinks and beauty products.
* For more information: www.welcomehomeillinois.gov
During a question-and-answer session afterward with reporters, Quinn said he's "open-minded" to the state helping to finance a Barack Obama Presidential Library in Chicago.
"President Obama is from our state. A presidential library is very, very important to our economy in Illinois," Quinn said. "It could create a tremendous number of jobs."
He added, "We've already invested, as a state, in the Lincoln Presidential Library, and it's paid great dividends in terms of economic growth and tourists coming to Illinois and spending money in Illinois. The same thing would happen with the presidential library for President Obama, so I think working with private donations, I'm open-minded certainly to our state making an investment if it creates economic growth and jobs for a long time."
Quinn said he needs to "see all the details, but it's something we're exploring."
Republicans say the state is in no shape to be paying that much toward the library, and argue that other presidential libraries weren't built with state money.
House Speaker Michael Madigan is pushing legislation that would appropriate $100 million in state money to lure the library to Chicago.
Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2511.