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Editor's Note: Charlie Daas recently began directing the Chicago Mutual Housing Network, and this article,which originally appeared in their newsletter, describes their Tenant Ownership Project

By Charle Daas, Executive Director
copyright Chicago Mutual Housing Network

Recently the Clinton Administration recommended funding for 100,000 tenant based section 8 vouchers while some 5.3 million families across the U.S. await decent affordable housing. An estimated 20,000 Chicago Housing Authority units await demolition. Few affordable replacement units are slated for construction to replace those irrevocably lost to the wrecking ball. Low
income households have had nary a voice in these haphazard decisions, with residents involved "after the fact."

Enter Nuestro Hogar (Our Home), a 21-unit cooperative development in Humboldt Park established as Chicago's first Latino Cooperative and the first development of the Tenant Ownershtp Project. A partnership between the Chicago Mutual Housing Network and the Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, Nuestro Hogar stands in stark contrast to mainstream affordable housing efforts.

Dodging the top-down decisions endemic to public housing authorities, cooperatives focus on home ownership and resident control, functioning on the principle of One person, one vote. Decisions are made democratically as residents engage in the day-to-day responsibilities of home ownership and cooperation.

As local and national media continue to focus on public housing woes, little attention has been paid to key elements in the affordable housing debate: property management and resident training. Indeed, resident screening, training and control sets cooperatives apart from most affordable housing developments. Each year, the Network trains hundreds of cooperative households in the nuances of building and financial management. In a recent discussion on affordable housing with State Senator
Miguel Del Valle, he observed that our focus on resident training will serve as a crucial clement to the success of cooperative development.

In February, I joined the Network to continue these and other initiatives to support and develop affordable housing throughout Chicago. I am fortunate to have inherited an expert staff and a dedicated Board, enabling the Network to meet (and occasionally exceed) our goals. I like to call our efforts "a quiet revolution" as we build Chicago's cooperative housing movement. Given the movement's adherence to cooperative values and democratic principles, I have learned that cooperatives, by their very nature, do not allow for resting on one's laurels. Nor will we.

 

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Revised: October 02, 2003.

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