When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., moved to Chicago’s North Lawndale community in 1966, he did so to protest discriminatory housing practices that caused widespread disinvestment in the community and limited economic mobility among its residents. Though redlining and predatory lending practices employed at the time have long since been outlawed, this legacy of systemic racism continues to reverberate to this day.
Late last year, however, nonprofit Lawndale Christian Development Corporation (LCDC) reached a significant milestone in a bold plan to revitalize North Lawndale by building 250 new, affordable single-family homes designed to create opportunities for generational wealth building through homeownership in the predominantly Black community.
LCDC’s Work in the News
To learn more about LCDC’s plan to develop 1,000 homes on the West Side of Chicago and how that fits into a larger plan led by United Power for Action and Change to revitalize Chicago’s neighborhoods, check out some of the extensive media coverage about the initiative:
- The Washington Post: These Chicago residents are trying to revitalize their neighborhood without gentrification
- The Washington Post: A new model for affordable housing
- Chicago Sun-Times: Homeowners could bring pride and power to North Lawndale
- Block Club Chicago: Hundreds Of Affordable Homes Coming To North Lawndale After City Approves $5.3 Million In Funding
- WBEZ: A Plan For 2,000 New Homes In Chicago’s Needy Areas
- WTTW: ‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: Revisiting North Lawndale
Working alongside community members from the North Lawndale Homeowners Association and the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council, LCDC completed the construction of two 1,600-square-foot model homes that demonstrate proof of concept for the Reclaiming Communities Campaign. IFF provided a $500,000 loan for the project, helping finance the construction of the homes at 1621 S. Avers Ave. and 1625 S. Avers Ave., both of which have since been sold to new homeowners. Additional funding for the project was provided by All Saints Episcopal Church and several partners involved in a “Greenlining Campaign.”
“The first two model homes provided proof of concept and allowed us to test different methods to replicate this at scale, but it also created a sense of hope in the community,” says LCDC Executive Director Richard Townsell. “People began to understand the vision of what building affordable single-family homes can do for a block, and, more importantly, that these homes are for them. One of the folks who bought one of the model homes grew up just down the street, and that’s what this is all about. The homes we’re developing are for regular people from the neighborhood who will have the opportunity to own and live in a house that’s beautiful, well designed, and energy efficient.”
Born out of a quality-of-life plan developed by and for residents of North Lawndale, the Reclaiming Communities Campaign is the first phase of an initiative led by United Power for Action and Justice that calls for the development of 2,000 new homes on Chicago’s West and South Sides by a variety of mission-driven affordable housing developers. IFF is a member organization of United Power and has played an active role through the Foundation for Homan Square in advancing the initiative – which is modeled after a similar approach to community development successfully implemented in East Brooklyn, NY, in the 1980s.
Designed to reclaim vacant lots and revitalize the community by creating mass homeownership opportunities facilitated by extensive education about the homebuying process, the campaign is backed by a commitment from the City of Chicago to sell 250 city-owned lots to LCDC for $1 and to streamline the acquisition process to help reduce construction costs to make the homes as affordable as possible to North Lawndale residents. The city has also designated $5.3 million in TIF funds for site remediation and lot preparation, while a slew of corporations and private foundations have committed $12.25 million for a revolving construction fund – further helping reduce the final sale prices of the homes.
LCDC estimates that homes developed through the campaign will eventually sell for $250,000 or less with the help of additional grants and subsidies for first-time homebuyers (made possible in part by a $10 million allocation in the Illinois state budget), making it more affordable to buy than rent for families in North Lawndale with a combined income of $50,000.
“Our goal is to inspire people to have hope about the future of their community and to help create a city that working people can live in and benefit from in the same way as folks who are more well-to-do,” says Townsell. “For us, it’s about justice, and we intend to do something about it.”
To take virtual tours of the model homes developed by LCDC, which include three bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, and spacious open floor plans, click the photos below.
1621 S. Avers Ave.
1625 S. Avers Ave.
Read about additional affordable housing projects IFF has supported in Illinois