JCUA August Newsletter

August 12, 2014
JCUA's latest newsletter is now online here.

JCUA’s latest newsletter is now online here.

In the August issue of the JCUA newsletter…

  • Mimi Harris makes the news
  • JCUA members focus on leadership…and change
  • Deborah Goldberg to lead Or Tzedek
  • Rebecca Katz reflects on three years as JCUA’s director of teen programs
  • JCUA supports affordable housing in Albany Park
  • Vigil and coffeeshop discussion at Broadview

Read it now!

Green ReEntry Project is Completed on the Southwest Side

May 13, 2014
Green ReEntry House ribbon cutting

The marching band from Fairfield Elementary, across the street from the house on Fairfield, enhances the celebration (more photos).

City housing advocates are celebrating the completion of an unusual housing project on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

On April 28, JCUA joined city and foundation officials and others to celebrate the Inner City-Muslim Action Network’s ribbon cutting on 6210 S. Fairfield. The house, which was the second project completed by the Green ReEntry crew, was the culmination of tremendous efforts of an unconventional idea that went far beyond the confines of a typical bricks and mortar project.

The Green ReEntry crew is made up of formerly incarcerated individuals who are reclaiming their lives through leadership training, community engagement, and learning construction skills (learn more about Green ReEntry).

“We would never have been able to acquire this home if community partners and organizers from the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Southwest Organizing Project and others across the city didn’t come together three years ago through the Multifaith Housing Reclamation Campaign to help us mobilize with our local leaders around this home,” said IMAN’s Alia Bilal who served as emcee that morning.

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Community Development Projects Supported by JCUA Receive Driehaus Foundation Awards

February 28, 2014

By Judy Levey
JCUA Executive Director

At an event known as the Oscars of community development in Chicago, two projects supported by JCUA won awards last week.

It was the 20th anniversary of the annual Community and Neighborhood Development Awards. Ten projects received awards acknowledging significant real estate developments, architecture, community organizing and individual achievements in a variety of areas. 

Two of the projects were supported, in part, by zero-interest loans from JCUA’s Community Ventures Program. Landon Bone Baker Architects was the award-winning firm in both cases. Both of these projects won Richard H. Driehaus Foundation awards for architectural excellence.  

Gracie’s Café

Last year, JCUA assisted St. Leonard’s Ministries on the start-up of Gracie’s Café, a component of Harvest Commons which provides job training to formerly incarcerated people living in the building.  The café, located at 1517 W. Warren Blvd., is now operating and adds to the vibrancy of the development and neighborhood.

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Community Development that Transforms Houses into Homes

August 27, 2013

by Beth Filipiak
JCUA Intern, Community Development

What really makes a house a home? Is it the flooring, or the façade? The paint colors or the appliances? Or rather is it the opportunity to actually call a place your own – a place for you and your family to live, to grow and to engage the community? To build that community spirit and connection, to know that this house, and the community, are yours.

Ownership is important, and that is the philosophy guiding the Breaking Ground organization as they continue to rehabilitate houses in neighborhoods like North Lawndale, Hermosa and Austin. They then sell them at below market rates, assist buyers in receiving additional government subsidies, and provide a one year guarantee on all of their construction work.

They see their work as part of a long term strategy of not only building homes, but also of building lives and the communities around them. Because of the care and dedication they put forward in their work, many of the homeowners maintain their relationship with Breaking Ground, knowing that this organization is also part of their community.

Taking a recent tour of the project were (photo at upper left) Ralph Brown, Kaitlyn Wiedeman, David Midgely, Roberta Nechin, Josh DeGraff, Zachary Braun and Judy Levey. Wiedeman and DeGraff are with Breaking Ground. Brown, Midgely, Nechin and Braun are JCUA leaders. Levey is JCUA's executive director.

Taking a recent tour of the project were (photo at upper left) Ralph Brown, Kaitlyn Wiedeman, David Midgely, Roberta Nechin, Josh DeGraff, Zachary Braun and Judy Levey. Wiedeman and DeGraff are with Breaking Ground. Brown, Midgely, Nechin and Braun are JCUA leaders. Levey is JCUA’s executive director.

As a 2010 recipient of a zero-interest loan from JCUA’s Community Ventures Program, Breaking Ground is part of the JCUA community. Hence, members of the Community Ventures Program Advisory Committee went to the North Lawndale community to see the results of their dedication first hand.

The committee learned that this particular grey stone house was scheduled for demolition before Breaking Ground was able to take over. It had been vacant, unsecured, and needed major infrastructure updates.

Now, the original hardwood floors have been beautifully rehabbed, the walls painted, the bathroom tiled, the kitchen cabinets and counters redone and all major systems are more than up to code. Standing there in the house, it was difficult to imagine that it had ever been considered for demolition. Yet without Breaking Ground, it would have most likely been a vacant lot. Instead, the Breaking Ground staff are putting the finishing touches into a future home for a family that would not have been able to live there otherwise, and the neighborhood will have another family with a place to call home.

Home ownership is a dream for too many people. There are too many people in Chicago who need a place to live. As of January 2013, the Chicago Housing Authority had a wait list with more than 85,000 people, while they still have over 2,000 empty (“offline”) units. A July 2013 study estimated that 116,042 Chicagoans were homeless in the 2012-2013 school year, a 10% increase from the previous year.

Affordable housing continues to be a great need, and may seem overwhelming at times, yet JCUA continues to work toward a more affordable Chicago. To learn more about JCUA’s Community Ventures Program, click here.

Chicago’s Affordable Housing Crisis And What We Are Doing About It

July 11, 2013

by Beth Filipiak
Community Development Intern, JCUA

In Chicago, your bank teller may not have the basic financial means to afford “affordable housing” without being considered “cost burdened.” To be “cost burdened” is when more than 30% of your income goes to basic housing costs.

Chicago’s Affordable Housing Crisis

affordable housingWith the average price of a one bedroom rental unit in Chicago being approximately $850, a person needs an annual salary of $34,000 to afford such an apartment.  Yet a bank teller does not typically make that much. Neither do many public school bus drivers, nursing aids, receptionists or security guards.

This also almost guarantees that these same professionals would not be able to afford a mortgage of a home priced at $150,000 without being cost burdened (see more statistics here). Hence, Chicago lacks truly affordable housing options for many workers and the unemployed.

However, too many apartments remain vacant: some are caught up in Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) ‘limbo’ where they are not being lived in, or are being torn down, as CHA figures out their “Plan Forward.

Some units have out priced their neighborhood. Others are uninhabitable, though, incredibly, the US Census 2011 American Community Survey reports that there are still a few occupied units in Chicago without complete plumbing, kitchens or available phone service.

Even owning your own home has not meant that you have been unscathed by the recent housing crisis.  Most likely you know someone who is struggling with mortgage payments (as of 2010, almost 50% of homeowners were).

What We Are Doing About It

There is no doubt that things need to change for the better.  At JCUA we strongly believe in the positive ripples that stable housing provides; for individuals, families and communities.  This is why for over the past twenty years, JCUA’s Community Ventures Program has provided almost $4.5 million in seed funding to create or rehab over 3,600 units of affordable housing.

This is why we continue to look for partners with a commitment to restoring and maintaining human dignity by offering truly affordable, safe and secure housing.  For more information about our Community Ventures Program, visit our website.

Victory: JCUA Celebrates Passing of Fair Housing Amendment in Cook County!

May 8, 2013

Today, May 8, 2013 the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted YES to amend the Human Rights Ordinance so that those with Housing Choice Vouchers will no longer be legally discriminated against based on their sources of income.

by Lauren Goldstein
JCUA Intern, Advocacy and Community Organizing

In Photo: Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle urging commissioners to vote in favor of the amendment.

In Photo: Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle urging commissioners to vote in favor of the amendment (photo taken by Open Communities).

Over the last year JCUA has been a partner in the effort to pass the Source of Income Amendment in Cook County, which will effectively outlaw (finally!) discrimination based on source of income in Cook County. This is already the case in the City of Chicago, but the rest of Cook County has been lagging behind. This has allowed landlords to deny Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holders the right to apply for residence in their units.

Today, May 8, 2013 the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted YES to amend the Human Rights Ordinance so that those with Housing Choice Vouchers will no longer be legally discriminated against based on their sources of income. Today, the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted YES for a county where discrimination of this type will no longer be tolerated.

The discussion prior to the vote was moving and powerful. Among other speakers, Cheryl Johnson, Executive Director of People for Community Recovery and longtime Altgeld Gardens resident and environmental justice activist, silenced the crowd with her moving words that proved impossible to disregard. A young mother of three and previous volunteer coordinator for the Obama campaign, also a Housing Choice Voucher holder, empowered the crowd to recognize that the stereotypical face of voucher holders is truly only a stereotype, and challenged the commissioners to see voucher holders as the strong, hardworking, veterans, mothers, fathers, and PEOPLE that they really are.

Following a separate roll-call of votes from the Commissioners, as well as astounding speeches in support of this amendment from Commissioner Garcia, Commissioner Sims, and Commissioner Suffredin, equal opportunity came to fruition amidst the celebratory applause, hugs, and words of praise from the audience.

While today is a day to celebrate justice won, we urge you to not forget the reality in which this discussion is rooted. It is concerning that in 2013 we must still debate whether to allow discrimination to thrive and to be codified into law.

Today we thank our partners in this campaign, especially Open Communities (who have led the fight and coordinated our collective efforts), Metropolitan Tenants Organization, Access Living and others.

JCUA will continue to work so that one day we may live in a society where basic human rights and equal protection under the law are no longer a point of contention. Until then, we hope you will celebrate this victory with us, and remember, as Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

[Urgent Action Alert] Stop Housing Discrimination in Cook County

May 7, 2013

Call your Cook County Commissioners Today! The County Board is taking an important vote tomorrow morning. Details:

housing_right_signIn suburban Cook County, a person can be discriminated against by a property owner or landlord if they happen to pay their rent with a Housing Choice Voucher (formerly known as Section 8).  This is codified discrimination happening in our very backyards.

As a partner in the Source of Income Campaign, JCUA supports an amendment to the Human Rights Ordinance of Cook County which would make such discrimination illegal.  The Source of Income protection amendment to include Housing Choice Vouchers as a protected class under the county’s fair housing ordinance is included in the Human Relations Committee Report from July 24, 2012.  This protection already exists in Chicago and we want to mirror that protection for the suburbs.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners are voting on the report TOMORROW, Wednesday, May 8th at 11:00 AM.  We need your help to stop housing discrimination!  Please call your Commissioner (find your commissioner here, contact info below) and tell them:

In the vote tomorrow, please vote YES in support of The Human Relations Committee Report from July 24, 2012

JCUA will be at the vote and we invite you to join us:

Wednesday, May 8th at 11:00am in the County Board Chambers (118 N. Clark Chicago, IL; 5th Floor).

Please get there early to secure a seat or standing space.

Commissioners Contact Information:

1ST Earlean Collins


2ND Robert Steele


3RD Jerry Butler


4TH Stanley Moore (Formerly Williams Beavers district)


5th Deborah Sims

312-603-6381(if you can make only one call please call Commissioner Sims Office)

6th Joan Murphy


7th Jesus Garia


8th Edwin Reyes


9th Peter Silvestri


10th Bridget Gainer


11th John Daley


12th John Fritchey


13th Larry Suffredin


14th Gregg Goslin


15th Tim Schneider


16th Jeff Tobolski


17th Elizabeth Gorman



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