AUSTIN — A group dedicated to the preservation of affordable housing in Chicago has purchased a pair of Austin buildings, vowing to keep them affordable for decades.
The two buildings at 325 and 345 N. Austin Blvd. include 94 apartment units and are outfitted to serve seniors and people with disabilities.
The acquisition by Preservation of Affordable Housing, known as POAH, will pave the way for improved tenant services, as well as efficiency improvements in plumbing, lighting, roofing and heating systems that will help keep the units affordable over the years, POAH officials said.
“We try to make it our job to not just, you know, collect the rent and keep the lights on, even though that’s important,” said Bill Eager, vice president of the Chicago chapter of POAH.
“We try to help the people who live in our buildings access whatever services they need, whether it’s health services or training services, that sort of stuff,” Eager added.
POAH is a mission-driven development company that has amassed more than 1,700 units in Chicago since 2008, with a goal of creating and maintaining housing affordability by keeping costs down and preventing physical deterioration of units that would otherwise fall out of the affordable housing stock.
The group also hopes to secure grants to fund future improvements to the apartments.
“We will be pursuing some resources to help with the rehab,” Eager said. “We’ll probably be pursuing low-income housing tax credits.”
All apartments in the properties are reserved for Housing Choice Voucher recipients. In unison with preservation strategies, Section 8 is one of the lynchpins to Chicago’s affordable housing policy.
“These properties tend to run on the expensive side these days. There’s a very sort of active market for people looking to buy properties that have Section 8 contracts,” he said. “The biggest challenge these days is pricing competitively so that you can get them, but in a way that allows you to have enough money to operate properly.”
The two buildings are considered to be in good condition, and already have several amenities including on-site laundry and community rooms for tenants. Eager said the buildings have been maintained well, and won’t require extensive development to preserve.
“They’re in pretty good shape. So it’s not going to be what we call a gut-rehab,” he said. “It’ll be a moderate rehab and the idea would be to set it up for 30 or 40 years of affordability.”
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.
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