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LUCHA (Latin United Community Housing Association) was founded in 1982 by a coalition of residents from the West Town, Logan Square, and Humboldt Park neighborhoods to stop families from being displaced from their homes and preserve affordable housing. Its mission is advance housing as a human right by empowering communities – particularly Latinx and Spanish-speaking populations – through advocacy, affordable housing development, and community building.
For many local families and individuals, the organization has been a place to turn to for housing support services that help them access affordable housing and maintain their homes. According to LUCHA’s Director of Community Development Lincoln Stannard, being rooted in place has always been critical to how it executes its mission.
“Physical presence and space have always been part of LUCHA’s DNA,” he said. “From the first buildings we developed as a response to some of the disinvestment and arson epidemics that were going on in the community in the 1980s, it was very clear that we were an organization that people would look to help to create community stability.”
To deepen its impact, LUCHA is embarking on a project to build a new headquarters in Humboldt Park on a vacant building on the corner of North and Karlov avenues. The plan is to rehabilitate a two-story 11,232 square foot building to create a one-stop shop for housing services like workshops and financial counseling. In addition, LUCHA’s new headquarters will provide a space for residents to host community meetings and events.
The hope is that the project will also help attract community investment for the corridor on North Avenue between Pulaski Road and Kostner Avenue, an area Stannard says has quite a few vacant storefronts. He adds that when new development projects come into Humboldt Park, they often don’t serve long-time residents and make them vulnerable to displacement; instead, LUCHA HQ intends to serve their needs and ensure stability for the area.
Last year, the project received a $100,000 grant from the Trust’s Pre-Development Fund, which supports commercial real estate development projects, businesses with brick-and-mortar needs, and neighborhood-scale land-use projects that aim to stimulate economic activity in disinvested neighborhoods. A few months later, the project received additional funding from the City of Chicago’s Grant Recovery program. Stannard credits support from the Trust as instrumental in keeping the momentum going.
“It’s huge, not just because of the dollars themselves, but because of the way it catalyzes everything around the project,” he said, “From interest in the project, excitement about what’s going on, to other resources that we’ve been able to secure—it all happened after receiving the Pre-Development grant.”
Currently, the proposed timeline is for the project to break ground at the end of 2023, with the goal of opening the new headquarters by mid-2024.
According to Stannard, feedback from LUCHA’s community engagement process has been very positive. He notes that many residents and homeowners see this project as not only important to enhancing their ability to access housing services, but it also plays a role in the area’s long-term economic vitality.
“We’ve had people say, ‘Oh, yeah. I know LUCHA. I know somebody who has gotten help from LUCHA,’” he said. “I would say the general feeling that we’re hearing is excitement and that this is going to be a benefit to the community.”