Chicago Tribune: Chicago Flats Initiative is hoping to keep iconic 2- and 4-flats flourishing

“Seneca Oaddams, 44, bought his two-flat in Roseland for $132,000 a little over two years ago — months before the pandemic began. He wanted to put down roots in the neighborhood where he grew up.

“The property, which he purchased as an investment and rental property, now has an estimated worth of $250,000, according to the real estate website Redfin. But having endured 17 months of the pandemic, Oaddams says it’s hard to hold on to the building. His tenant, whose rent covers approximately half of Oaddams’ monthly mortgage, lost her job at the start of the pandemic and hasn’t been able to keep up her payments. She applied for rental assistance and is waiting to hear back.

“Homeowners such as Oaddams are exactly who the new Chicago Flats Initiative, which is being spearheaded by Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago and other groups, aims to help. The goals of the initiative are to preserve and rehab two- and four-flats, maintain rental affordability, and help homeowners build wealth. The initiative is working to accomplish that by connecting homeowners and renters to available mortgage and rental assistance programs.

“With two- and four-flats making up 26% of Chicago’s housing stock, the structures are as synonymous to Chicago’s landscape as the bungalow, and yet the ‘workhorse’ of the city’s housing stock is disappearing, according to the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University. In some areas, the buildings are being razed and not replaced because of deferred maintenance and difficulty in upkeep, while in other areas, two- and four-flats are being converted into single-family homes.

“‘Particularly in underserved neighborhoods, this is such a critical housing stock,’ said Donna Clarke, chief operating officer of Neighborhood Housing Services. “This housing stock provides so much affordable housing in these communities. In the Hispanic/Latinx community, almost 50% of the population live in two- to four-units, and in Black communities, it’s more like 30%. What we’re worried about is coming out of this crisis, how many of them are going to go into foreclosure?”

“We’ve been busy on all fronts trying to get money out the door and trying to give people financial strategies to get them through this period,’ Clarke said. ‘One thing that I learned being part of this initiative is that it’s that intimate relationship between the landlord and the tenant that keeps these units affordable. We want to preserve that intimate relationship as part of this initiative because they’re dependent on each other — the tenant pays their rent, that’s how the landlord pays the mortgage and keeps the property up. It’s this whole circle of life that we’re trying to bring back into balance.’ (Rockett, Chicago Tribune, 8/25/21)

Read the full story at the Chicago Tribune

Chicago Flats Initiative is hoping to keep iconic 2- and 4-flats flourishing in the city: ‘Why not? They’re beautiful buildings and good structures.’, Darcel Rockett, Chicago Tribune, 8/25/21

Housing advocates push to preserve two-flats in Chicago, A door-to-door campaign is part of a movement to preserve affordable units while helping homeowners build wealth, according to housing advocates, Elvia Malagón, Chicago Sun-Times, 7/17/21

Missing Middle Housing: A Micro-Analysis from Andersonville, Chicago, Alyssa Frystak, PlaceEconomics, May 28, 2021  

Patterns of Lost 2 to 4 Unit Buildings in Chicago, Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, May 13, 2021

Characteristics of the 2 to 4 Stock in Chicago Neighborhoods, Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, May 13, 2021

Guest Blog: The Need for a Collective Approach to Preserving 2 to 4 Unit Housing in Chicago, Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, May 13, 2021

Chicago’s two-, three- and four-flats are disappearing, changing communities and who can afford to live in them, Sarah Freishtat, Chicago Tribune, 5/13/21
Chicago Is Rapidly Losing Its Signature Home, The Two-Flat: ‘Now You Go Through Lincoln Park And It Looks Like The Suburbs’; Chicago has lost thousands of two-, three- and four-unit buildings. In wealthy areas, they’ve become single-family homes. In poorer neighborhoods, they’re now vacant lots, Hannah Alani, Block Club Chicago, 5/14/21


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