In Braidwood, a town of about 5,000 people in northern Illinois, sit vacant dilapidated homes and empty lots full of weeds growing taller than fire hydrants. The roads are so rough and pothole-riddled that the post office threatened to cut off delivery.
Back in 2009, a developer started construction on a new housing subdivision — the Townes of Braidwood — but filed for bankruptcy before its completion. This left those who’d already purchased houses in a major jam, so the homeowners appealed to their town for help.
This year, the village of Braidwood finally purchased the vacant lots in the subdivision and came up with a plan to fill them and stabilize the neighborhood. And it’s a good one: They’re offering to supply the down payment on a home for any veteran or first responder that wants one.
Through the Illinois program Welcome Home Heroes, Braidwood will give veterans who want to buy a lot in the subdivision a $10,000 state-funded grant, and any firefighters, police officers, or other first responders will be provided a $7,000 grant. According to Jessica Bourque of the Morris Daily Herald, all veterans in Illinois can receive an $18,000 grant to be put toward housing on top of the $10,000 that Braidwood is offering.
Restoration America, a nonprofit that helps revitalize abandoned properties, will build 35 new houses in the subdivision that will first be offered to veterans and emergency responders, though anyone can purchase them.
Braidwood Mayor Bill Rulien told Bourque, “Veterans, as a group, are people that are good at volunteering, that are good at teamwork, that will help their neighbors. They are people you want in your community.”
Braidwood is located 18 miles south of Joliet, Illinois, where the new Edward Hines Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic has just been completed. Charles Konkus of Restoration America told Bourque, “Our goal here is to get veterans into new housing and have them serviced by the new veterans hospital in Joliet.”
Rulien and Konkus will visit nearby veterans events in the coming months to let former soldiers know about the housing available to them. And with any luck, the once-beleaguered Townes of Braidwood will become a great place to live in.