Housing Authority of Cook County Breaks Ground on New Affordable Housing Development for Veterans
The Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC), in collaboration with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez, announced today that construction has begun on Otto Veterans Square, an affordable housing development for veterans located in downtown Chicago Heights, IL.
“Every veteran deserves a home, and this new development will help us move a step closer to achieving our goal of making sure every veteran in Cook County is provided with access to decent, safe and affordable housing,” said President Preckwinkle. “I applaud the Housing Authority of Cook County, the City of Chicago Heights and their partners for lifting this project off the ground.”
Developed by the Housing Authority of Cook County, Otto Veterans Square is an 82-unit, four-story development featuring an exercise room, media room, walking paths, and raised planting beds for community gardens, among many other amenities. Otto Veterans Square is the first new development to emerge from the Downtown/East Side Choice Neighborhoods Plan, which was jointly developed by the City of Chicago Heights and Housing Authority of Cook County and funded by a $350,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Supportive services will be provided to residents of the development by both the Department of Veterans Affairs and Respond Now, a Chicago Heights-based social services agency.
“The initiative between the City of Chicago Heights and the Housing Authority of Cook County to revitalize the property formerly occupied by Franciscan Hospital with a modern, 82-unit veterans housing development represents both a dignified and deserved investment in our military veterans,” said Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez. “We are proud to host the veterans housing facility and grateful for the short and long-term economic boost to the city’s center that the project represents.”
The $30 million development was financed with 9% low-income housing tax credits awarded by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), with equity provided by the National Equity Fund (NEF). IHDA and the Federal Financing Bank additionally provided permanent debt, with BMO providing construction debt. Soft funding was provided by IHDA, Cook County's Bureau of Economic Development, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, with additional funding provided through the ComEd Energy Efficiency Program. The Housing Authority also provided owner debt.
“It is unconscionable for any American who served their nation to struggle to find safe, decent, and affordable housing,” said HACC Executive Director Richard J. Monocchio. “This new 82-unit development builds on the incredible work done by the Department of Veterans Affairs in addressing veteran homelessness, with the number of veterans experiencing homelessness decreasing by more than 50% over the past decade. Otto Veterans Square will help further reduce that figure while contributing to the revitalization of downtown Chicago Heights.”
All 82 units will receive Project-Based Voucher assistance from the Housing Authority. This subsidy means that tenant rents will be set at a sliding scale so that residents pay no more than 30% of their income on rent. All residents will have incomes at or below 50% of the Area Median Income for the Chicago region, as set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“The design is sensitive to both its context and the population it will serve,” said Susan King, FAIA, LEED AP BD C LFA, Housing Market Sector Leader with HED, the national architecture and engineering firm who designed the facility. “It was planned to coincide with Chicago Heights’ new mixed-use district regulations, aimed at creating vibrant and walkable neighborhoods. To that end the L shaped plan is positioned to embrace the streets and hold the corner at Otto and 15th. Our team also implemented design strategies tailored to the special needs of veterans, including calm color palettes, quiet spaces with heightened acoustic requirements, and units and common spaces with open plans which provide visibility with no hidden corners. Service animals will be welcomed with their own entry and activity spaces inside and out.”