Reclaiming Chicago – Reclaiming Communities

united power

United Power’s Reclaiming Communities initiative seeks to build or rehab 1000 homes on the South Side of Chicago and 1000 homes on the West Side of Chicago – strategically and at scale – entire blocks at a time – led by local leaders and proven local institutions and supported by allies from across the Chicago region.  This is not a housing strategy.  It is a strategy for creating communities of opportunity.  We need to replace vacancy, violence, and decades of disinvestment with affordable homes, safe streets, and opportunities for families (especially families of color) to build wealth and equity.  Local institutions with proven track records will lead this work. Building and rehabbing at scale will make it possible to win on housing, schools, jobs, and safety.

Two Ways to Invest or Contribute to Reclaiming Communities

Patient Capital.  United Power is raising $25 million in 5-year, 0% patient capital that can be used to build or affordable homes for sale to working families.  These dollars will be recycled and repaid.  This will allow us to build or rehab 100 homes at any given time and to achieve the scale and pace that our communities need.  Instead of unaccountable outside institutions holding the purse strings and calling the shots, proven local institutions will set the pace, build at scale, and hire local contractors and contractors of color. 

Homebuyer Subsidies. United Power is organizing $60 million to provide homebuyer subsidies to buyers of the newly constructed or rehabbed homes.  We estimate an average development cost of $250,000 per home.  With an average anticipated homebuyer subsidy of $30,000 per buyer, this will produce 2000 homes.  An average subsidy of $30,000 per homebuyer (in some cases it could be larger and in other cases it could be smaller) will allow us to overcome appraisal gap issues and to ensure that the homes are truly affordable. 

A Proven Model – Nehemiah Homes and United Power

The Reclaiming Communities approach is based on past and current efforts that produce results:

Nehemiah Homes – NYC  East Brooklyn Congregations (EBC) (an affiliated entity of United Power) has constructed over 5000 affordable homes in East Brooklyn for working class and working poor households – rebuilding areas that were once as vacant and disinvested as the south and west sides of Chicago.  These efforts have created over $2 billion in wealth and equity for first time homebuyers (mostly people of color).  And the foreclosure rate has been less than a fraction of 1%. 

Reclaiming Southwest Chicago.  United Power member, The Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), has led a strategic and concentrated effort to reclaim Chicago Lawn from 11,000 foreclosures and over 700 vacant properties.  Since 2012, SWOP has helped over 650 families save their homes from foreclosure and has transformed dozens of vacant properties into over 100 homes and apartments.  As a result, crime is down by over 55%, the number of vacant properties has been reduced by over 50%, and school quality has dramatically improved.  SWOP stands ready to acquire and rehab another 100 homes and apartments to continue this work to create affordable homes, safe streets, and good schools. 

Reclaiming North Lawndale.  A dozen United Power member institutions are leading the effort to rebuild North Lawndale – including Lawndale Christian Development Corporation (LCDC), North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council (NLCCC), and the North Lawndale Homeowners’ Association

(NLHOA).  In 2005-06, United Power and Lawndale Christian led the effort to build over 100 Ezra Homes on city-owned vacant lots in North Lawndale.  The Ezra Homes still stand today – owned by active community residents, helping families build wealth and equity, and serving as testaments to what can be.  The Ezra Homes are part of LCDC’s track record that has brought $82 million worth of commercial and residential development to the community.  LCDC and allies plan to build 250 affordable homes on city-owned vacant lots in the first phase of Reclaiming North Lawndale.

Reclaiming Back of the Yards.  United Power member, The Resurrection Project (TRP), and other institutions in Back of the Yards (BOTY) are leading the effort there.  TRP has successfully built and sold over 125 single-family homes on vacant lots in Pilsen– helping immigrant families and families of color to build wealth and equity, to send their children to college, and to save money for retirement.  These homes also stabilized property values and brought safer streets to the neighborhood.  These homes are part of the $1 billion worth of affordable housing and community development investment that TRP has brought to Pilsen and surrounding communities.  TRP and allies plan to build 250 affordable homes on city-owned vacant lots in Back of the Yards in the first phase of Reclaiming Back of the Yards.

Reclaiming Roseland.  United Power members, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI) and The Hope Center Foundation at Greater Salem Baptist Church are leading the effort to reclaim Roseland.  CNI has brought thousands of permanent jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investment to the Pullman community and other West and South Side neighborhoods over the past decade.  CNI has also successfully rehabbed and sold dozens of historic Pullman rowhomes – creating affordable homeownership opportunities and stabilizing a neighborhood.  Now, CNI and the Hope Center plan to build hundreds of affordable homes on vacant lots in Roseland (just next door to Pullman).

Why Rebuild at Scale? We Can’t Afford Not To

Creating Wealth and Equity for Families (Including Families of Color).  By re-building entire communities, we can create home equity and a path to the middle class for working people (especially people of color).  Past efforts by our country created a path to the middle class for many but families of color were excluded.  Now, we can fulfill the true promise of our founding documents by creating opportunities for all.

Reversing Population Decline.  Our city and state continue to lose population.  By rebuilding neighborhoods, we can make our city and state an affordable place for working people to raise a family.

Reducing Violence.  The Nehemiah Homes, Reclaiming SW Chicago, and TRP’s homes in Pilsen all demonstrate that we can create safer streets by replacing vacant lots and buildings with homes and residents.

Path Out of Fiscal Insolvency.  Our city and state’s ability to pay its bills and make investments in our future depends on more homeowners, more tax base and jobs, and more people calling Chicago and Illinois home.

Building Housing at Scale for Working People and Essential Workers.  Our country used to build homes at scale for working people.  Today, we only build at scale for wealthy people, and then we try to shoe-horn in a small percentage of homes for working people.  We can do better – for working people and for the people who served us and saved us during this pandemic.  

The Pay-Off

Building 2000 homes will directly create over 5,000 permanent full-time jobs, over $350 million in wages and salaries, and over $250 million in additional taxes and fees for state and local governments.