Photo: An aerial shot of the Home Sweet Homan model home

Home Sweet Homan: Affordable, Single-Family Smart Homes Offer Wealth-Building Opportunities on Chicago’s West Side June 26, 2024

In a Nutshell

What: A new development initiative led by Foundation for Homan Square in partnership with IFF’s Community Development Solutions team called Home Sweet Homan is developing 20 single-family homes that will be sold at affordable prices to individuals and families who live, work, or worship on Chicago’s West Side. The purpose of the initiative is to create wealth building opportunities in the Homan Square neighborhood for existing and returning North Lawndale residents and to prevent the displacement of those committed to community. 
Sectors: Housing 
Location: Chicago, IL (Homan Square) 
Size: Each Home Sweet Homan home will be 1,455 square feet, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, garages, and enclosed yards. 
IFF Staff Leads: Kevin Sutton, Foundation for Homan Square executive director; Eden Hurd-Smith, vice president, Community Development Solutions; Stephanie Neal, senior project manager, Community Development Solutions; Caitin Hartnett, project manager, Community Development Solutions; Smitha Vasan, project manager, Community Development Solutions  
Designer and Builder: Inherent Homes, L3C  
Realtor: Carmen Dennis, Exit Realty 
Impact: Creation of 20 housing units that will offer wealth building opportunities for homeowners 

There are few variables that play a more significant role in the trajectory of a person’s life than where they live. Location matters, as does the quality of the home, both of which influence social mobility, economic opportunity, and learning and health outcomes, among other measures of quality of life. So, too, does it matter whether a person rents or owns their home, with homeownership proven to be one of the most effective ways for families to build wealth that can be passed on to future generations.  

To reap the benefits of homeownership, however, there must be an adequate supply of quality homes in buyers’ desired locations, available at affordable prices that enable individuals and families to accrue the long-term benefits of home value appreciation while building equity in the property. When both conditions are met, it’s not just beneficial for homeowners, but for the broader community. Homeownership encourages residential stability that strengthens the fabric of communities, keeping long-term residents in place who are highly engaged in maintaining vibrant neighborhoods with the resources needed for their families and neighbors to thrive.       

Thanks to a new development project called Home Sweet Homan that’s being led by the Foundation for Homan Square (FHS) in partnership with IFF’s Community Development Solutions team, more Chicagoans will soon have the opportunity to achieve homeownership and build wealth while contributing to the ongoing revitalization of the Homan Square neighborhood that FHS has spearheaded since the late 1980s. Launched last year with the development of a model home that opened in November, by the end of 2025 Home Sweet Homan will result in 20 single-family homes taking the place of vacant lots acquired through the Cook County Land Bank and from the City of Chicago.  

Contributing to a diversity of affordable housing in the neighborhood, the initiative will also serve as an anti-gentrification tool by providing existing Homan Square residents with a new housing option that enables them to live and thrive in place as additional community assets are developed and property values rise. Part of a broader campaign led by United Power for Action and Justice (United Power) to catalyze the development of 1,000 new homes on the West Side, Home Sweet Homan is modeled after a similar approach to community development implemented in East Brooklyn, NY, in the 1980s that has led to the development of more than 6,500 homes and created more than $2 billion worth of generational wealth for homeowners.   

“We’ve accomplished a lot in Homan Square, with the development of a community center, the opening of a high school, new rental housing, and more, and increasing the supply of single-family homes to create ownership opportunities is an important next step in creating the community we want,” says Foundation for Homan Square Executive Director Kevin Sutton. “Renters are certainly important, but homeownership creates stability that will serve as a backbone for continued community development.” 

All of the Home Sweet Homan homes will include three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and two living rooms, with two-car garages and enclosed yards. While the layout of each home will be the same, buyers will get to choose interior and exterior finishes from a range of packages to customize their homes, and accessibility features like ramps, elevators, and lowered counters can also be installed, if needed. Regardless of the finishes selected, each home will include major appliances as part of the purchase, including stoves, refrigerators, and washers and dryers. The all-electric homes will also boast a variety of smart home features that allow homeowners to control the home’s temperature, alarm system, and lights remotely, helping to increase energy efficiency, reduce monthly utility bills, and make the ongoing cost of homeownership more affordable.    

Being developed using modular construction, the homes are designed and produced by Inherent Homes (Inherent) in a nearby factory on the West Side, which is supporting local jobs and adding to the positive impact created by Home Sweet Homan. After homes are produced in the factory, they’re placed on a truck and delivered in two parts to the lot where the home will be located. The homes are then assembled on site by Inherent in a matter of days, at which point the remaining interior installations are completed over a four- to six-week period. This approach enables each home to be completed far more efficiently than an identical home developed through traditional, stick-built construction, and at a lower cost that supports the goal of making homeownership affordable to buyers. To date, three Home Sweet Homan homes have been completed, with several more on track to be placed on their lots this summer.  

Advancing the Place-Based Work of Foundation for Homan Square

For FHS, Home Sweet Homan represents the next step in a more than 30-year effort to build a vibrant and thriving community on the former Sears, Roebuck & Co. headquarters campus through asset-based development informed by extensive community engagement. Once a thriving commercial hub on the West Side, the community experienced significant disinvestment when Sears left the neighborhood for its eponymous skyscraper downtown. Since redevelopment efforts began, FHS has been the driving force behind the redevelopment of the 55-acre site, which today includes a community center, a hub with office space for community-based organizations, a high school, and more than 350 units of affordable housing. 

In 2017, FHS formally partnered with IFF – bringing together technical real estate and construction expertise with deep rooted relationships in the communityto further strengthen and stabilize the blocks surrounding the Homan Square campus. Home Sweet Homan is an example of this model in action, with FHS identifying the need for affordable, single-family homes, working with local stakeholders to develop a plan to address the need, and IFF bringing technical development expertise to the partnership to bring the new homes to fruition.

Each home will be sold for $275,000 – slightly below appraised value – to individuals and families who live, work, or worship in one of six ZIP codes on Chicago’s West Side. With opportunities to purchase quality homes at affordable prices remaining elusive in West Side neighborhoods like Homan Square that have been burdened by long-term disinvestment and the continued impact of historic redlining policies, Home Sweet Homan represents a unique opportunity for buyers who want to remain on or return to the West Side but might not otherwise be able to find a comparable home at an affordable price.   

“This is all about creating an option for people who see the progress that’s been made to create a vibrant neighborhood in Homan Square and want to be a part of the next chapter here as homeowners,” says Sutton. “That alone would make this initiative worthwhile, but it’s going to be that much more impactful by putting the homes on what have been vacant lots for many years to return those properties to a productive use.” 

To qualify for Home Sweet Homan, buyers must have an income that is less than 120 percent of the Area Median Income, complete a HUD-certified homebuyer education course offered by nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) or other comparable organizations, and contribute a minimum of $3,000 of their own funds toward the purchase of their home. Home Sweet Homan will provide potential buyers with referrals to mortgage lenders, each of which was selected by the United Power Reclaiming Communities collective team for their commitment to working with first-time homebuyers and providing additional services to build mortgage readiness. 

To make homeownership as accessible as possible, the initiative is providing grants of up to $60,000 to buyers that can be used for down payments, principal reduction, closing costs, and other expenses associated with the purchase of their home. The grant amount will be based on household income, and if the buyer remains in the home for five years, the grant will be fully forgiven to add to the equity the owner will have in their property.  

Buyers are also able to layer additional subsidies they secure, like those offered through the Cook County Land Bank Authority’s Down Payment Assistance Program, to further reduce the cost to acquire their home. All told, most homeowners will have monthly mortgage payments of $1,400 to $1,900 per month, which is consistent with the cost of renting a similarly sized apartment in the neighborhood. This has been a compelling selling point for potential buyers, with more than 200 aspiring homeowners touring the model home during a series of open houses and private showings in the past six months. 

“There aren’t many new construction, all-electric, energy-efficient, high-performance smart homes in the area that are not only affordable to purchase, but to maintain,” says Exit Realty’s Carmen Dennis, a West Side resident and program realtor for Home Sweet Homan. “Beyond building the homes, Inherent Homes will play an important role in ensuring that buyers can continue to build generational wealth by offering quarterly maintenance and ADT services for a set period after the homes are purchased. This is a neighborhood filled with community organizations and resources that has access to health care, transportation, and so much more. It’s become a highly desirable place to live because people understand the trajectory of the community.”

Learn more about IFF’s work in Homan Square and the broader North Lawndale community