As affordable housing becomes scarcer in Chicago, some find home with co-op living

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Can you imagine living in a home with more than a dozen other people? For several renters on the South Side, that's what works for them.

Wells House in Bronzeville is one of four homes in the Qumbya Housing Cooperative on Chicago's South Side.

"Some people look at me like I'm from Mars when I tell them I live with 14 other people," said Scotty Hendricks.

Hendricks, a freelance writer, moved into Wells House two years ago when he moved to Chicago from Iowa. In Wells House each person pays a few hundred dollars for their room and a couple hundred dollars for food and utilities for the whole house.

"I don't have to buy a thing outside my rent and utility bill," he said.

A mandatory meeting of all house residents is held every Sunday night, for about an hour, to discuss any household issues and take votes on any big decisions.

"We check in with each other around the dinner table and we say what we do for our chores today, and any sort of agenda items that come up, purchases that we have to make," said Luke Macy, Wells House resident.

Residents range in age from 22 to 75 years old. All applicants are interviewed and have to be approved by the house. Macy moved into Wells House in December, and knows this kind of housing isn't for everyone.

"The biggest adjustment was having 15 close neighbors who are somewhere in between a neighbor and a family member," he said. "That's a lot of people."

The Illinois Housing Development Authority is a state agency that focuses on affordable housing. They work with developers and local governments to create affordable housing. Executive Director Kristin Faust said more and more people are being priced out of the housing market in Chicago.

"People cannot find a place to live that matches their income level," she said.

"One time, for giggles, I looked at the price for apartments on the North Side and my eyes jumped out of my head," Hendricks said.

When Hendricks moved into Wells House, he thought it would be temporary.

"I didn't think I would be here two years when I moved in, and here we are," he said. "I like the people, I like the environment."

And he likes that it comes at a price he can afford.
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