At the OFN Conference in Chicago, OFN awarded Chicago-based LUCHA, one of the Midwest’s premier affordable housing organizations, with our 2018 Justice Grant. The annual award recognizes organizations with a mission that supports economic, political, or social justice in the U.S.
Juan Calixto from OFN member Chicago Community Loan Fund (CCLF) presented the Award to LUCHA Executive Director Juan Carlos Linares during OFN’s Annual Conference, held this year in Chicago. While accepting the award, Linares spoke of LUCHA’s history in Chicago and its longtime relationship with CDFIs, including CCLF and Low Income Investment Fund. “Without CDFI industry support and partnership, LUCHA can’t succeed in our projects,” he said. “But with your success we can’t fail.”
Like many areas nationwide, Chicago has a critical shortage of affordable housing. Although the city has seen a decrease in foreclosures over the past five years, affordable rentals remain elusive. In some gentrifying parts of the city, smaller multi-family rental units are turned into single family homes or rising rents displace longtime residents. In disinvested areas, gentrification isn’t a threat but neglect is — people are left to live in unsafe housing or units are left abandoned. According to the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, the demand for affordable rentals outpaces the availability.
LUCHA — which stands for Latin United Community Housing Association and is the Spanish word for “struggle” — has been a leader in the fight for affordable housing since 1982. A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved housing counseling agency and Community Housing Development Organization, LUCHA works against discrimination, housing displacement, systemic inequity, and patterns of injustice that impact members of Chicago’s low- to moderate-income Latino and African-American communities.
“LUCHA is founded on the principle that quality affordable housing is a basic human right, and it’s our mission to empower people to claim this right for themselves, their families, and their communities,” said Linares.
Anchored in Chicago’s Humboldt Park area, LUCHA was born from local organizers working to address rampant displacement of the Puerto Rican community in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, the nonprofit’s base and city footprint has expanded.
“LUCHA plays a vital role in ensuring affordable housing options exist in Chicago,” said Lisa Mensah, OFN President and CEO. “The organization sees the full picture of what’s needed to fill housing gaps and provides a deep and needed array of services and programs to help people fight for fair housing. OFN is thrilled to uplift this longtime champion of equity with our Justice Award.”
Over the past 36 years, LUCHA has helped more than 68,000 low- to moderate-income families rent affordable housing, obtain Section 8 rental assistance, purchase good homes, improve dilapidated buildings, make homes more accessible and energy efficient, and beautify their neighborhoods.