Modular homes reshape future of Chicago affordable housing as Latino buyers snap them up

Friday, September 17, 2021
Modular homes could be an affordable housing game changer
David Mata lives in the first modular home built by The Resurrection Project in Back of the Yards. Mata purchased the home for $255,000, but he also received subsidies and down payment assistance.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Modular homes could be the future of affordable housing in Chicago, and David Mata is one of the first buyers to purchase one in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood.

"It's just great, there's no place like home," Mata said recently. "This is a really nice house, it's really nice."

At 26, Mata has full custody of his younger brother. Mata said their dad died of Covid-19 in November, and their mother is living in Mexico, caring for their grandmother.

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So in June, Mata decided to purchase a home, rather than spend money renting an apartment.

"If I'm being honest, I did it more for my brother, so he can have a nice home," Mata said. "He loves it."

When it comes to buying homes, Latinos, especially younger Latinos, are shaping the future, and Chicagoans are taking advantage of opportunities and programs to help them afford a home in the city.

Mata's house is the first modular home built by The Resurrection Project, which helped Mata through its homeownership programs.

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Mata purchased the home for $255,000, but he also received subsidies and down payment assistance totaling about $30,000, according to Raul Raymundo, the CEO and Co-Founder of The Resurrection Project.

"Our vision is to build hundreds of these on the West Side and South Side with partners, particularly in the Hispanic and Black communities," Raymundo said. "Modular housing is quality housing. It is energy efficient, and it's a new concept we can produce at scale."

Latino homeowners, like David Mata, are the future. Despite the pandemic and job losses, Latinos are the only ones to increase homeownership for six consecutive years, according to the 2020 State of Hispanic Homeownership Report.

Raymundo with The Resurrection Project said modular homes are produced on a larger scale and are more affordable than building on-site. He said the organization is targeting working families earning $45,000 to $60,000 a year who learn about responsible homeownership through their programs.

He said it's a win-win for the purchaser and the communities they are targeting, especially those with vacant, unused lots.

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"You're taking eyesores off the block. They were vacant, sometimes full of garbage, now you have a brand-new home with a new neighbor that is committed to getting involved in the community," Raymundo said.

Raymundo described the process as a way to "lift up communities, not just homeowners." But it's going to take time too. Raymundo estimates this could take years, maybe even more than a decade to see the vision come to fruition, with financially health homeowners turning neighborhoods into vibrant, thriving communities.

Rather than put modular homes on the market, Raymundo said The Resurrection Project is helping potential buyers who go through their organizations, learn about responsible homeownership, and analyze their finances.

"There are over 10,000 vacant lots in the entire city of Chicago. Can you imagine if we had a modular home in every single one of those lots?" Raymundo said.

Indeed, the number of Hispanic households is skyrocketing. Between 2020 and 2040, 70% of new homeowners will be Latino, according to a study by the Urban Institute.

"When you're looking at home ownership, you're looking at a community with a young population, within the primary age of 25 to 44, prepared to or interested in purchasing a home," said Joseph Lopez, Executive Director of the Spanish Coalition for Housing.

Lopez said potential homeowners must think about the following:

  • Meet with a housing counselor
  • Understand your financial health and credit
  • Educate yourself about purchasing a home
  • Prepare for a down payment
  • *Maximize programs, like subsidies and down payment assistance

    "Our team works with prospective homebuyers to understand their financial health and preparedness and readiness to become homeowners, and take advantage of programs," Lopez said. "Resources are available for homeowners, and we continue to ensure that our counseling team makes those connections."

    The Spanish Coalition for Housing recently assisted Jonathan Sancen, a 27-year-old Chicagoan who purchased a one-bedroom condo in Rogers Park last year.

    "I got into the program and completed it, that was $2,000 that they would help me with," Sancen said.

    Buying a house right now, an affordable one, is an important issue, but equally important is making sure Latinos can stay in their homes during the pandemic - and that means being able to pay their rent or mortgages.

    The Spanish Coalition for Housing and The Resurrection Project are helping families with rental assistance, which has increased during the pandemic as families faced hardships, like losing a job.

    "By providing rental assistance to these families, we're able to not only let the family get back on track, but also help the landlords to preserve their home," said Raymundo.

    So whether Chicagoans are paying rent or

    Ultimately, having a home, an affordable one, is worth it, especially for David Mata and his younger brother.

    "It means a lot to me. I know it means a lot to my brother," he said, adding in Spanish, "Si se puede!"