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Pritscher, John

October 13, 2007
Chicago, IL

Former priest John Pritscher took up the cause of affordable housing by providing loans to renovate buildings for low-income residents

By Trevor Jensen | Tribune staff reporter
 October 16, 2007

John Pritscher took up the cause of affordable housing after leaving the Catholic priesthood and for 20 years ran Community Investment Corp., which provides loans to renovate multi-unit buildings for low-income residents.

Mr. Pritscher, 67, died on Saturday, Oct. 13, which was his birthday, his Streeterville home of complications from prostate cancer, a CIC spokesman said.

As president and chief executive officer of CIC since 1986, Mr. Pritscher oversaw the distribution of more than $920 million in loans to rehab nearly 40,000 housing units in the Chicago area, according to the CIC.

Working with a collection of about 45 investors, most of them banks and other private financial institutions, along with property owners and government entities like the Chicago Department of Housing, Mr Pritscher would find ways to make fixing up downgraded properties economically feasible for all parties.

"He saw from all sides what the issues and obstacles were," said Gary Washington, chairman of CIC's board and a senior vice president at LaSalle Bank. "He was the type of individual who would keep his eye on the goal of providing affordable housing."

In a speech he gave not long ago, Mr. Pritscher laid out the simple reason for his commitment to affordable housing, according to his wife, Sally. "How can a child do his homework if he doesn't have a place to live?" he asked.

"He was the idea man," his wife said. "He came up with the ideas and he made them work."

The son of German immigrants, Mr. Pritscher grew up in Rogers Park. His father was a butcher. At Quigley Preparatory Seminary and later at St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, Mr. Pritscher played basketball  while studying for the priesthood.

After his ordination (1966), he was a pastor at Ascension Church in Oak  Park, but only remained a priest for a few years.

Socially liberal and active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, he went back to school to study housing and urban issues. His master's thesis at the University of Chicago was on the failure of low-income housing rehabilitation efforts in Chicago. The same year he received his degree, 1971, he married the former Sally Corcoran. The couple raised a family in Evanston, IL.

Mr. Pritscher worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Model Cities program in Chicago and briefly in Minneapolis before taking an administrator's position with the CIC in  1984. At that time, the CIC worked with a lending pool of $18 million and 17 investors.

He was named to Affordable Housing Finance magazine's Hall of Fame just this month.

A commitment to social justice carried through to his home life. During a family dinner at McDonald's, Mr. Pritscher invited a homeless man to the table to share the meal.

"We were kind of freaked out at the time, but he really taught us, never look the other way," his son, Daniel, said.

Mr. Pritscher is also survived by two daughters, Sarah Mercurio and Elizabeth Pritscher-Lewis; two brothers, Conrad and Tom; and three grandchildren.