IFF for Access Housing - Logan Square Preservation Award (2019)


Various addresses in Logan Square

Back to map

While finding affordable housing is always challenging, for those with physical limitations the challenge is often daunting. While in the past 20 years there had been an increase in housing specifically for those with physical impairments, much of the housing was in institutional looking buildings – often located far from the neighborhoods where those hoping to relocate had long resided. How then to create housing that was accessible, affordable and integrated into the regular neighborhood patterns of city life? The answer: Home First, a partnership between long-time financier and developer IFF and renowned disability advocacy organization Access Living, which in turn created the city’s first fully integrated affordable housing preservation, accessibility and integration program – Access Housing. Rather than looking for large empty lots in historic Chicago neighborhoods on which to build a large-scale project with elevators that would likely stand out from the otherwise vintage structures, Access Housing sought out areas in which it could simultaneously create needed accessible affordable housing while preserving housing and seamlessly integrating special needs housing into neighborhoods. Their starting point? Logan Square, where Access Housing rescued 12 multi-family buildings from foreclosure and rehabbed them to be accessible, and transformed 13 vacant city lots into beautiful, accessible rental apartment buildings. While access to amenities and transportation was assured by the choice of neighborhoods, to ensure choice of interiors Access Housing sought input from people with disabilities, rather than relying on “industry standards.” As a result, 14 of the units are wheelchair-accessible, and all apartments include unique design features, such as visual doorbells and alarms to accommodate people who are deaf, contrasting floor borders for people with low vision, and lever door handles and accessible appliances for those who might not have full use of their hands. “We’re really proud to see that these buildings are functioning as part of the community,” said Access Housing’s Lead Developer Dena Bell. “It’s not identifiable from the outside as an affordable housing project, which is what is allowing people to live their lives independently in the community.” “I love the city life,” said resident Stephany Pantoja. “There’s so much more to do!”