PJ and Jaime Klacko are looking forward to moving into this four-bedroom Lockport home when it’s complete next spring. The city’s $10,000 incentive "definitely" helped them choose to buy in Lockport, Jaime says.

PJ and Jaime Klacko have 10,000 reasons to be thankful this week—the $10,000 that the city of Lockport will kick in on the purchase of their newly built house, which should finish construction next March. They are among the first dozen buyers to take advantage of an incentive the far southwest suburb is offering as a way to help keep its homebuilders going.

The Klackos had been living in a townhouse in Mokena, but with no private yard for their daughter and dog to play in, they began house hunting in several nearby suburbs. “[The $10,000] definitely got us to pick Lockport,” Jaime Klacko says.

But the Klackos and the other 11 buyers aren’t the only ones who are thankful. There are the homebuilders who are getting a hand in selling their inventory; city officials, who expect that continued homebuilding (and home-buying) will attract new retailers to contribute to their city’s tax base; and the rest of the people who live in Lockport, who, if things go as planned, will have a wider array of retail options close to home.

Lockport has been counting on new homes for years. Since 2000, the city’s population, now at about 25,000, has risen by 64 percent. Tim Schloneger, the town’s city administrator, explains that when Lockport built a huge new wastewater treatment plant a few years ago, “we built for the capacity of the future. That new plant doesn’t become efficient until you get a certain amount of growth.” On top of that, the plan for paying off the bond and interest on the project was predicated on revenue projections based on hundreds of new homes.

Lockport had also put in water, sewer, and site improvements for retail developments. “But the economy fell out from underneath us,” Schloneger says. “[Several well-known big-box retailers] are waiting to see what happens.” Schloneger and others contend that continued activity by homebuilders will send those big retailers a strong signal about the vitality of the community.

Because of the precipitous decline in construction of new homes—from 406 in 2005 to only 15 this year—city officials announced that they would give a $10,000 incentive to each of the first 100 buyers who bought newly built single-family homes in Lockport by August 31, 2010. (Buyers of townhouses or duplexes get $7,000.) Lockport is not the first Chicago suburban community to try such a thing—both Manhattan and Hampshire have taken a similar tack—but so far, Lockport’s incentive appears to be the biggest. Half the money comes from fees that homebuilders already pay the city; the builders put up the other $5,000.

With their incentive, Jaime Klacko says that she and her husband can now more easily afford upgrades such as landscaping and fencing, amenities they might otherwise have had to postpone. “We’re thankful that we can go ahead and do those things,” she says.