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.