Founder’s Corner: Creating jobs and stabilizing communities in a down economy

More than two years after the official end of the Great Recession, families and communities alike continue to feel the effects of the economic downturn on their pocketbooks and in their communities. Brinshore’s commitment to sustainable development and locally sourced labor offers a bright spot within this difficult climate, as we work on revitalizing hard-hit communities through our housing development projects.

For us, creating jobs and revitalizing neighborhoods are just as important as the housing we are developing – issues we care about because it makes economic sense for us and for the communities in which we work.

The Park Douglass project on Chicago’s south side, featured in this newsletter, underscores this commitment. This comprehensive development will stand as the cornerstone for the revitalization of the community around Mount Sinai Medical Center. The project has created 40 local jobs, beautiful new affordable housing, and is encouraging economic development, investment, and stabilization throughout the neighborhood and in the community as a whole. The effort is bringing new life and new interest into a community that abuts one of Chicago’s great green spaces – Douglas Park – and is inspiring hope as an anchor and inspiration for the entire area.

On the other side of town, we are working with the City of Evanston to improve the quality of life for residents in areas where foreclosure and abandonment have damaged the viability of their communities.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded Evanston over $18 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program phase 2 funds, to rebuild two neighborhoods most in need. The first neighborhood, on Evanston’s west side, is home to one of the oldest middleclass African American communities in Illinois, and the second on the city’s south side, has seen the recession push a major condominium boom into a mortgage crisis.

As manager of these redevelopment efforts, we have already seen positive results: subcontractors are committed to hiring locally, and 77% of the subcontracts are going to women, minorities, and Evanston-based firms. Half of the hundred rehabbed properties will be rental units, with the other half for sale. The first of those rehabbed homes went on the market through LiveEvanston in late September, with incentives available to help working families purchase good homes – and get the support they need to help them keep those homes over the long term, despite the ups and downs in the economy. (Click here to read the Chicago Tribune article about Evanston’s NSP efforts.)

What these projects underscore is how responsible development of quality affordable housing can serve as a catalyst for economic development. Construction jobs have been hit hard by the recession, so every construction job we can support adding is a big help.

But those construction jobs help build work for others, too – from building suppliers to the police officer whose salary is underwritten by a growing government revenue stream. And every home brought back from blight builds the value of the homes around it – and the civic pride that helps keep neighborhoods strong.

We’re proud to be part of the effort to help stabilize economic conditions in hard-hit communities, and bring jobs to neighborhoods in need.

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