Metro IAF has built 6,500+ Nehemiah homes for first time primarily Black and Brown homeowners, creating over $2 Billion in wealth with a foreclosure rate of less than 1% in New York, Jersey City, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Chicago, Prince Georges County, MD, Philadelphia, and Memphis. The Washington Post story profiles Metro IAF/IAF’s Chicago affiliate United Power for Action and Justice’s (UPAJ) Reclaiming Chicago Campaign to build 2,000 Nehemiah homes on the South and West sides of the city. UPAJ's Reclaiming Chicago Campaign is modeled on Metro IAF NYC’s & East Brooklyn Congregations' nationally recognized successful Nehemiah Plan, which over 35 years has built and sold 4,500+ Nehemiah Homes, rebuilding East Brooklyn/East New York and the South Bronx.
For decades, governments have favored rental housing for low-income Americans. North Lawndale is a test case of whether homeownership is a better bet.
By Kyle Swenson
"In the early 2000s, (Richard) Townsell’s group, the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, a community development nonprofit group, along with United Power for Action and Justice, another Chicago nonprofit community organization,constructed around 100 new homes on empty lots donated from the city. But the office of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley balked at handing over more lots. Townsell spotted a valuable lesson in the defeat: Community development was only possible if the community organized and pressured politicians for help. “The reason we lost before was because we didn’t have a base,” he said. “We were building houses, but we didn’t have leaders. So now we needed to do that through a homeowners association.” Over the next decade, North Lawndale residentssuccessfully organized around local issues, includingimprovements to a library and permit parking on high-crime blocks to limit traffic.“That helped us have faith we can win,” Townsell said. “So many folks have been losing for decades. They would call the alderman about their trash cans and nothing would happen. But you get involved with us, we’re trying to teach people to win.”
“Using tax credits to generate more rental housing, there’s a high level of comfort in that approach with developers and builders and nonprofits,” explained Michael Gecan of the Industrial Areas Foundation, a national network of community organizing groups. “But it doesn’t do two things we know homeownership does. It doesn’t create equity. And it does not create large-scale, critical mass ownership opportunities that can revitalize communities that have suffered for decades.” Gecan and IAF were instrumental in one of the most successful experiments in affordable housing. “Can Congress understand that two things have not happened in spite of 40 years of other approaches,” Gecan said. “One: Most inner cities have not been rebuilt by the people living there. The second: Equity has not increased for African Americans and Hispanic families because they cannot buy a home. Our approach is revitalization without gentrification.”