CHICAGO—Anthony Sugel has a place to call home. He moved into his new apartment March 1. “Since I’ve been here, this has helped me do more for myself than any of the multiple places that I had been in before,” said Sugel, who had spent the prior six years bouncing around the shelters, streets, and hospitals of Chicago.
He is one of the residents at The Margot and Harold Schiff Residences, previously known as the Near North Apartments.
Developed by Mercy Housing Lakefront, the 96-unit project has been selected the best specialneeds development by AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE readers.
About half of the residents are formerly homeless and/or disabled individuals, while others are former public housing residents whose buildings have been torn down, said Cindy Holler, president of Mercy Housing Lakefront. Most residents have incomes below 30 percent of the area median income.
The development brings housing and services together under one roof. On-site case managers and services are on the first floor, and the upper floors hold the single-room occupancy units. Many of the residents have struggled with physical and mental illness, substance abuse, limited education, and poor work history.
Sugel takes part in different support and information groups. The staff has helped him get medical care, and he volunteers as the tenant editor of the community’s newsletter.
The Schiff Residences is a sleek fivestory building made out of glass, steel, and concrete. It was designed by renowned architect Helmut Jahn, whose involvement called attention to the building and raised the profile of affordable housing.
Built on a former brownfield site, the $18 million development emphasizes sustainable design. Near North is projected to use up to 22 percent less energy than traditional systems. That would yield about $18,000 in annual savings, freeing up money to help pay for a case worker or for other purposes.
Sixteen roof-mounted wind turbines produce an estimated 10 percent of the building’s electricity. Solar panels produce heat for the building’s hot water supply. The development also boasts of having Chicago’s first graywater system, which reuses runoff water from the sinks and showers to flush toilets.
The units feature large windows, with picturesque views of the city. “Who said only wealthy people get a great view of Chicago?” Holler said, noting that the development is breaking all the negative notions about affordable housing.
Funding for the development included low-income housing tax credits from the Chicago Department of Housing, which generated about $6.9 million in equity. The credits were syndicated by the National Equity Fund.
The Illinois Housing Development Authority provided $2.5 million in HOME funds and $750,000 from the Illinois Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The city provided $1 million in tax increment financing money. About $400,000 came from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Supportive Housing Program.
The monthly contract rent for all units is $560. Residents pay 30 percent of their incomes. The average that a tenant pays is $149. More than 300 people are on a waiting list to live at the development.
The Margot and Harold Schiff Residences (formerly Near North)
Developer: Mercy Housing Lakefront
Architect: Helmut Jahn
Major Funders: Chicago Department of Housing
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Illinois Housing Development Authority
National Equity Fund