Some struggle to find affordable housing in Bronzeville area, advocate says

With affordable housing in the news lately, we thought we’d share some of our recent conversation with Holly Marshall, director of operations at Genesis Housing Development Corporation. This faith-based nonprofit builds affordable housing and educates homebuyers in the greater Bronzeville area, including the North Kenwood – Oakland, Douglas and Grand Boulevard neighborhoods. Five major mixed-income projects are underway in that vicinity that include public housing, affordable and market-rate homes. This should spell good news for middle- to low-income buyers.

Not so for the roughly 140 people who took Genesis’ home-buying workshops last year, Marshall says. “Their incomes are so far below what would allow them to afford anything in this neighborhood.” Even the affordable housing standards set by city or HUD are “still really out of reach for them,” she says.

She described these prospective buyers as “working people,” some of them longtime Bronzeville-area renters hoping to buy homes in the area. “We’re basically saying, ‘you just can’t,'” she says, adding that most could secure loans that would get them a home worth about $100,000. Given what housing in the area costs, “that’s nothing,” she says, especially since many of these people are in the market for single-family houses. Genesis has begun counseling them to look at condos, or increasingly, to head for more affordable neighborhoods. “We’re looking at other areas – South Shore – further south.”

How much does a single-family house in the Bronzeville area cost? A lot more than it used to. In Oakland, for example, the median price of a detached house rose from just $54,000 in 1997 to $245,000 in 2001 to $442,250 in 2006, according to data from the Chicago Association of Realtors compiled by Kristyn Dunn of Coldwell Banker.

Similar appreciation has occurred in neighboring Douglas and Grand Boulevard, where Dunn’s figures pegged 2006 median prices for single-family houses at $391,500 and $375,000, respectively.

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