Martha Arriaga emigrated from Mexico 23 years ago, settling in Pilsen. As she adjusted to life on the South Side, she kept noticing the empty lot near her home.
“She used to walk by there every day and thought it was kind of dark and sad,” said Arriaga’s son, Ulises Gomez. “She always dreamed of something going up there.”
In 2008, Arriaga’s dream came true: the Resurrection Project was building an affordable housing development, Casa Morelos, on that lot. Arriaga was one of the first to apply and, for the past 11 years, she and Ulises have lived there.
“It’s been a very good experience,” said Ulises, 16. “She’s seen worse conditions of living and she’s grateful that we have something over here that’s not like that.”
On Thursday, Arriaga and Ulises celebrated Mexican Independence Day with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) and others at the groundbreaking for Casa Durango, Resurrection Project’s fifth affordable housing development in their neighborhood.
Established in 1990 by Pilsen residents, the Resurrection Project advocates for, among other things, affordable housing and quality education. Besides its five housing projects, Resurrection also has about 800 other affordable units in Pilsen, Back of the Yards and Little Village, including some it manages for the Chicago Housing Authority. Average rent is $680 per month.
Casa Durango will offer 53 multi-family units in two buildings. The building at 1858 S. Racine Ave. will have 37 units — 13 with one bedroom, 16 two bedrooms and eight with three bedrooms. At 2010 S. Ashland Ave., Casa Durango’s other building will have eight one-bedroom units, six with two bedrooms and two with three bedrooms. Like Casa Morelos and the other Resurrection Project housing developments, Casa Durango is named after a Mexican state.
For many at Thursday’s ceremony, Casa Durango also is part of an effort to end the kind of displacement that sometimes follows redevelopment.
“This is part of a bigger effort to further create balanced development,” said Raul Raymundo, Resurrection Project CEO. “As we welcome newcomers, we want families from the neighborhood to benefit from the prosperity of the neighborhood.”
Rents in the new buildings won’t be set until Casa Durango is finished next fall, but the apartments will have income limits. To be eligible to move in, for example, a family of four would need to earn between $27,500 and $55,920, a year; that’s 30% to 60% of the area’s median income. And even for families below that income bracket, Resurrection Project will have 14 units in the Racine Avenue building for which it can accept vouchers from the Chicago Housing Authority and Illinois Housing Development Authority.
“In Pilsen and other neighborhoods across our city, as too many of us well know, gentrification is taking a devastating toll on long-term residents,” Lightfoot said. “People (are) being driven out, because they’re not able to afford or stay in the communities that they have called home for generations. That’s just simply not right. It’s not what we could be as Chicagoans.”
The development will cost $28.2 million. Funding will include $3 million from the state and a $5.6 million city loan. Casa Durango also qualifies for tax credits for low-income housing that will help cover about 9% of the project cost.
“We’re living through tremendously challenging times,” said Raymundo. “Coming out of this crisis, no family or community should be left behind.”