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Southwest Side Group Gets $1 Million In Federal Funding To Buy, Rehab Vacant Buildings In Chicago Lawn

The money will be used to buy and rehab vacant homes, restoring much-needed affordable housing on the Southwest Side, organizers say.

Homes in the 2500 block of West 69th Street in Chicago Lawn on Sept. 15, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO LAWN — The Southwest Organizing Project is getting $1 million from the federal government to support its effort to revive Chicago Lawn’s housing market.

The non-profit Southwest Organizing Project, also known as SWOP, is focusing on reviving vacant homes in Chicago Lawn through its Reclaiming Southwest Chicago campaign, said Director of Operations Chris Brown. The federal funding will be used to buy and rehab empty buildings in a 20-block radius from 51st to 74th streets and Western to California avenues.

The money comes from the federal spending bill recently passed through Congress, according to a news release from Rep. Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, who represents the area.

“By revitalizing the real estate market, we don’t mean gentrification. We mean revitalizing it for families who live in the community,” Brown said. “We’ll look to identify the strategic property or several strategic properties that we think by doing those will help encourage other people to come and invest in the community, as well as help address issues around safety or education in the community.”

Brown said the neighborhood was “devastated” by the 2007-08 foreclosure crisis, which left more than 800 vacant buildings in the area. The program launched as a pilot in 2013, partnering with developer Brinshore Development and United Power for Action and Justice to buy and rehab abandoned homes and convert them into affordable housing. SWOP expanded the program in 2017.

Brown said the buildings SWOP has rehabbed during its campaign range from apartments with one to four bedrooms to single-family homes. A combination of renters and buyers is critical for those homes to rebuild the community and draw more people to local businesses, organizers said.

“We knew that it can’t just be about housing, because if we do the housing — no matter how great it is or affordable it is — if the community is not safe and the schools aren’t good, people aren’t going to move to the community,” Brown said.

The feds are also sending $2 million in funding to convert a Logan Square church into affordable housing, $900,000 for the St. Anthony Hospital development in Little Village, a little over $1 million to create a community center in Brighton Park, $1 million to create an enclosed pool facility at Piotrowski Park in Little Village and $2 million to support mental health services at Erie Neighborhood House in Little Village.

“These investments support underserved areas and make a real difference in the lives of working families in Chicago and suburban Cook County,” Garcia said in statement. “I am proud to have fought for funding that will make our communities healthier, safer, stronger and even more resilient as we recover from the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Brown said the SWOP team appreciates the support.

“The cost of developing housing outpaces the ability of people to pay, and so if we want to be sure that folks have decent, affordable places to live, we need grants like this one in order to make that happen,” Brown said.

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