Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation for West Town Preservation

 The Polk Bros. Foundation Affordable Housing Rental Preservation Award (2020)


2550 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

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By 1983, when Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation erected its first dozen West Town Housing dwellings, the organization was already known as a builder of affordable for-sale single-family homes. In 1986 with the new resource of the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit for multi-family rental housing, Bickerdike began creating larger scale affordable rental creating a variety housing options for families. Bickerdike supplemented their housing expertise and renowned neighborhood reputation by partnering with a for-profit developer with multi-unit rental experience. In only five years, the organization built 318 apartments in town homes and small buildings scattered from Ashland to Kedzie, Division to North—all affordable to individuals or families earning up to 60 percent of area median income. Fast forward to 2017. The communities where Bickerdike built these and another 1000 apartments had changed. Even before the opening of the 606 elevated park and trail, property values and real estate taxes had risen faster than in any other part of the city – forcing out lower income families. With the apartments needing refurbishing and new financing mandatory, Bickerdike faced a new and daunting challenge. Bickerdike was pressured to sell its ownership share to its for-profit partner, which planned to demolish the housing to make way for high-end dwellings. Bickerdike said no. Instead it guaranteed families long-term stability as it bought out its partner and proceeded with rehab of all of the apartments with only a temporary relocation of the families. This spring all 312 apartments will be complete, updated in style and energy efficiency. This milestone will be marked by the unveiling of a mural dedicated to Frank Baum, author of “The Wizard of Oz,” who lived on the site of the homes. Bickerdike Executive Director Joy Aruguete, commented, “It’s so appropriate. For our tenants, these homes are the Emerald City; for us, the path to ensuring that families have the homes they need is our yellow brick road.” For its wisdom, tenacity and compassion, Bickerdike is this year’s recipient of the Polk Bros. Foundation Affordable Rental Housing Preservation Award.