Foreclosed Homes to Become Artist Havens
City aims to cultivate artistic community instead of demolishing homes.
A new city program aims to turn city-owned tax foreclosed homes into artistic community hubs. The program, originally introduced as a 2017 budget amendment by alderwoman Milele A. Coggs and Russell W. Stamper, II, got a thumbs up from all of the members of the city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee Tuesday morning. The first home scheduled for conversion from city liability to neighborhood asset is one in the Bronzeville neighborhood.
Artist Vedale Hill and his family will be moving into a home at 2406 N. 4th St. Carl Quindel and his rent-to-own housing firm Strong Blocks will acquire the home for $1 from the city, invest at least $25,000 in the property and receive a no-interest, forgivable $25,000 loan from the city. Hill will lease the home from Strong Blocks and after 21 months of payments will own the property. The loan will be forgiven if Hill lives in the home for five years and provides documentation on his work of engaging the community with art.
Hill is excited to participate in the program, noting “the entire idea is that we lay we a foundation for the work we do as artists in these communities.” He notes the work he does, contract to contract, “isn’t necessarily appealing to banks” so the program will allow him to find a stable home and studio space while helping the city retain artistic talent. Hill intends to develop a studio inside the house. He does work under the name Jazale’s Art Studio Inc.
The program, known as Art and Resource Community Hub (ARCH) Loan Program, is only a pilot right now. Up to $100,000 has been allocated for loans for the program in 2017. Participating properties are required to pay property taxes. The city has received assistance from Sara Daleiden of MKE<->LAX and developer Melissa Goins in structuring the program and identifying houses.
Coggs described the justification for the project by stating “on the art side, across the country creatives are helping rebuild cities. Why not allow them to take over houses? On the resource side, we have a lot of neighborhoods that need a lot of help.”
By the end of the hearing regarding the project, it had gained the support of the full committee. While Stamper and Coggs already sit on the zoning committee, Ald. Khalif Rainey joined the chorus of supporters by asking about how the program might come to his district and requesting to be listed as a co-sponsor of the legislation. Committee chair Jim Bohl noted he would like to be listed as a co-sponsor on account of his daughter, an emerging artist. The fifth and final committee member Ald. Nik Kovac was the last to join in. Kovac requested to be added as a co-sponsor shortly before the committee unanimously approved the program.
According to the term sheet for the program, to qualify for the loan forgiveness occupants must document ways in which they are sharing their artistic talents with the community. Examples include, but are not limited to, creating visual art for the neighborhood, participating in Gallery Night, conducting workshops for youth or using the residence as a community gathering space. The program is not limited to just visual artists. Amy Turim of the Department of City Development told the committee that “it’s not our business to define who an artist is or isn’t.” The city will instead look for the applicant to simply meet the requirements of the program.
The program will go before the entire Common Council on June 20th.
Those interested in applying should contact the Department of City Development.
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