The Chicago Flats initiative program
Housing in Chicago comes in many forms. There are luxurious condos and apartments in stunning high-rises, gorgeous mansions, and the charming historic bungalows that define many neighborhoods.
And then there are two-flats and their iterations – the three and four-flats. Two-flats in Chicago are what brownstones are to Brooklyn and what row houses are to Philadelphia. Two-flats are the structures that defined housing in Chicago during its early years of growth.
Recently, several civic groups started the Chicago Flats Initiative, a program that aims to preserve these historic structures and their original intent – which is to provide quality affordable housing to Chicago residents, particularly those in the lower income brackets.
What are two-flats?
Two-flats are low to mid-rise residential buildings mostly constructed in the 1900s to the 1920s. They are essentially duplexes, meaning each building houses two residential units or flats – one on each story. Three and four-flats simply mean there are three or four residential units in the building.
Two-flats were constructed to provide better housing options to the wave of immigrants that arrived in the city in the early 1900s. Back then, they were also the ideal property investment – you could live in one unit and rent out the other.
Why Chicago’s two-flats are threatened
Today, there are numerous two to four-flats still standing in the city. In fact, they comprise 35% of all rental units in Chicago. And in neighborhoods like West Garfield Park, Brighton Park, and Little Village, they make up more than 60% of the housing stock.
However, these flats are currently facing threats on various fronts, including:
- Lost ownership and tenancy
A number of flats have been demolished to give way to new developments
Many flats are being converted into single-family homes or into commercial buildings, reducing the number of affordable housing in the city.
A good number of these flats have fallen into disrepair, while many need to be updated to meet the latest safety standards. This defeats the original purpose of the flats to provide quality inexpensive housing and exposes the buildings to the possibility of condemnation or demolition.
Financial difficulties have led many two-flat owners to sell their properties at lower prices to cash buyers and property investors. The situation has been made worse by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which have affected both tenants and landlords. With the end of the eviction ban in the city, many tenants will likely be forced to vacate their flats. Some landlords and property owners also have difficulty paying their mortgage and face the possibility of foreclosure.
What the Chicago Flats Initiative is doing
Primarily, the initiative aims to help two-flat owners and tenants keep and improve their homes. In doing so, they help ensure the preservation of a piece of Chicago history as well as the availability of affordable housing in the city.
The group is offering several programs through the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago. These include:
- Purchase assistance grants and home improvement grants
- Utility bill assistance
- Home inspections to assess health and safety measures
- Construction management assistance
- Financial counseling and homebuyer education
- Foreclosure prevention services, including counseling, foreclosure workshops, and access to various guides and resources
As proud Chicagoland locals, we at United Realty Group strive to stay involved in the community and support initiatives to protect its heritage. If you want to learn more about investing in two-flats or other real estate for sale in Chicago and the suburbs, don’t hesitate to contact us.