Breakthrough Urban Ministries social service organization is trying to buy city-owned land at 3346-48 W. Carroll Ave. to build a 14-unit, three-story affordable family housing development.  

After moving to East Garfield Park in 2000, the nonprofit opened several facilities in the community, including transitional and supportive housing, along with 44 scattered-site affordable housing units.  

The new facility would be geared toward families that need affordable housing, with rent set at 30% of each household’s income. Breakthrough plans to build it on the four lots it already owns, at 3344-3338 W. Carroll Ave., and the two vacant city-owned lots it’s in the process of buying for $52,000. Because of the environmental contamination on the site, the payment will be held in escrow and used to reimburse Breakthrough for the clean-up costs.  

The development commission recommended the sale during its Aug. 10 meeting, and the city’s plan commission is scheduled to vote on it during its Aug. 26 meeting. The sale would then need to clear the Chicago City Council. Breakthrough hopes to acquire the property and begin construction in 2022. 

As noted during the presentation at the Aug. 10 meeting, the new facility would be located directly west of Breakthrough’s Women’s Center, 3330 W. Carroll Ave., which includes transitional housing, as well as employment services and other support services. It’s also a few blocks west of Breakthrough’s FamilyPlex facility, 3219 W. Carroll Ave., which includes a preschool, a fitness center and a primary care clinic. 

Breakthrough spokesperson Lindsey Tollefton said that the facility will be open to families that need affordable housing.

“Throughout our time in East Garfield Park, Breakthrough has prioritized responding to the needs expressed by the community, which includes access to affordable housing,” she said. “Breakthrough currently partners with individuals experiencing homelessness, so we are excited about the possibility of expanding our services to provide affordable housing for families.”

According to the presentation, the facility will include an on-site childcare facility, a laundry room and an exercise room. Site plans show a community garden and a playground in the back of the building. 

John Smith, the organization’s chief administrative officer, told the commission that tenants will sign a yearly lease, with the rent based on 30 percent of their income at the time. If the tenants don’t have a job, they will pay nothing until they find one.  

“We update the annual rent calculation as they obtain employment, or on an annual basis, whichever is more frequent,” Smith said. “Each resident will be working alongside a case manager, we’ll provide access to our employment team and other members of [our] adult support network team.”

He added that the goal is to get families to the point where they can afford and keep their own house or an apartment. 

Breakthrough estimates the project would cost $7.5 million, which it plans to raise through private donations. Smith said that the costs may rise due to pandemic-related material shortages.

“We’re still working to identify our final general contractor and identify the final pricing,” he said. “We do have, at this point, at least $5.5 million committed to the project from individual donors.”

Once the project clears the Plan Commission, the land sale ordinance will need to be introduced to the council, clear the council’s Committee on Housing and Real Estate and get a final vote by the full council. With the nearest city council meeting scheduled for Sept. 14, the final vote won’t happen until October 2021 at the earliest. 

For more information about Breakthrough Urban Ministries’ programs, visit

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...