Left to right: IFF CEO Joe Neri, IFF Chicago Region Executive Director O. Victoria Lakes-Battle, Foundation for Homan Square Executive Director Kevin Sutton, Ald. Monique Scott (24th), IFF Managing Director Community DevelopmentEden Hurd-Smith, Cook County Land Bank Executive Director Eleanor Gorski. | Igor Studenkov/Staff

More affordable housing is coming to the West Side. Representatives with the Foundation for Homan Square, the nonprofit lender IFF, Bowa Construction, and the Cook County Land Bank Authority held a groundbreaking ceremony on Aug. 18 at 3300-3308 W. Flournoy St. in the Homan Square neighborhood. 

Developers will build four two-story buildings with 21 units accessible to people with disabilities on four vacant lots. The project is part of a broader collaboration between the Foundation and IFF to bring affordable housing for older residents and to address surging property values in the neighborhood that threaten to price out longtime residents. 

They’ll construct two homes on the two adjacent lots where the groundbreaking happened, and at 3654 W. Polk St. and 3439 W. Flournoy St. IFF expects to finish construction by August 2023. 

Community leaders created the nonprofit Foundation for Homan Square to redevelop the former Sears North Lawndale campus property. IFF is a Chicago-based lender that works with nonprofits, providing loans and helping with real estate development.

As my late dad said, ‘It’s not where we live, it’s how we live.’”

ald. monique scott (24th)

According to IFF’s website, its collaboration with the Foundation goes back to 2005,

when the two organizations turned a decommissioned Sears campus power plant at 931 S. Homan Ave. into what is now the DRW College Prep high school. 

IFF also worked with the Foundation to redevelop the original 14-story Sears Tower at 906 S. Homan Square. In 2018, they agreed to work together to redevelop vacant lots, build more affordable housing and attract businesses to Homan Square. 

Kevin Sutton, the Foundation’s executive director, said they’ve been trying to build affordable housing in that area since 2018. The foundation’s advisory council wanted more affordable housing for people with disabilities, and they wanted the nonprofit to do more work outside the historic Sears campus footprint. 

“We want to do what the community wants us to do, which is to acquire vacant lots and bring more housing to the community,” Sutton said. 

Sixteen out of 21 units will be subsidized, with the tenants paying no more than 30% of

their annual income. According to the project page on the foundation’s website, the rents

for the remaining five units “will be aligned with market prices in Homan Square and

purposefully kept low to provide the most affordable options for potential tenants.”

IFF didn’t immediately respond to questions regarding the design specifics, including how many

they will build on each lot and how many units per lot would be affordable.

But the project designer IGMA Architects posted on Twitter in 2021 that each building would have between three and six units. All first-floor units would be wheelchair accessible.

The project page mentioned that all units “will include universal design features that meet a wide range of disability accommodations” but didn’t elaborate further.

According to IFF officials who attended the groundbreaking, the accessible housing project costs around $11 million, with around $5.7 million coming from the Illinois Housing Development Authority’s Permanent Supportive Housing Development Program grant, which the Foundation got in 2020.

Vickie Lakes-Battle, the executive director at IFF’s Chicago region office, said she started her career at the Community Bank of Lawndale. Lakes-Battle said she is “thrilled” her organization can now help bring “affordable, accessible housing” to North Lawndale.

“We are committed to the West Side,” she said. “We celebrate it. We thank you for hanging out with us on this long, arduous journey and celebrating with us.” 

Ald. Monique Scott (24th), whose ward includes all four lots, said quality, affordable housing is critical to community development.

“I talk to business leaders, I talk to residents, and the common thing I hear is that we have inadequate housing,” she said. “As my late dad said, ‘It’s not where we live, it’s how we live.’”

Cheryl Holmes said she has lived on the block for 60 years. She stopped by the goundbreaking because she was working from home and wanted to see what was happening. She said her son has disabilities, so she understands the challenge of finding accessible housing.

“I’m happy it’s coming to the community,” Holmes said. “This lot has been empty for a long time.”

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...