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HUD Housing Counseling Certification

Please join us in congratulating LUCHA’s housing counseling team and Director of Programs for successfully completing all requirements and passing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Counseling Certification Exam! In December 2016, HUD published the Housing Counseling New Certification Requirements Final Rule, which implements statutory requirements for housing counseling required under or provided in connection with HUD programs. Effective 2020, all HUD-certified agencies must employ HUD-certified housing counselors per the certification exam.

With this achievement, LUCHA is the first HUD-approved housing counseling agency in the state of Illinois to employ 100% HUD-certified counselors. Congratulations, counselors!

Polk Bros. Foundation Award

LUCHA is excited to announce that we have received renewed funding from the Polk Bros. Foundation! The Polk Bros. Foundation focuses its work at the intersection of Chicago’s most pressing issues to address the complex roots and devastating effects of poverty, challenge inequity, and ensure that all Chicagoans have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

With support from the Polk Bros. Foundation, LUCHA is able to continue its efforts to create and preserve affordable housing across the Northwest side of Chicago. As part of its central commitment to racial equity via affordable housing creation and preservation, LUCHA has built and currently manages 198 units of affordable rental housing for over 450 tenants across four developments spanning Humboldt Park, Logan Square, and West Town: Humboldt Park Residence (HPR), a 68-unit single room occupancy facility; Borinquen Bella, a 47-unit scattered-site development of one-, two-, and three-bedroom units; Madres Unidas, a 36-unit scattered-site development of two- and three-bedroom units; and Tierra Linda, a 45-unit scattered-site development built to Enterprise Green Community certification and Passive House standards and enriched by a Community Health Action Plan.

Muchas gracias to the Polk Bros. Foundation for your continued investment in advancing housing as a human right!

Lissette Castañeda Joins LUCHA as Interim Executive Director

LUCHA could not be more excited to share with you that Lissette Castañeda will be serving as our Interim Executive Director. A long time friend of the organization, Lissette was born and raised in Chicago. While Lissette spent her formative years in Lincoln Park, her family made Logan Square their home in 1994 when gentrification pushed the Latinx community west and Lissette continues to reside in Logan Square to this day. Rooted in values of justice and service,  Lissette and her family have always acted upon their belief that they must do whatever they can for others. As such, it was inevitable that she got involved with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, a longstanding partner of LUCHA. Given Lissette’s innate leadership, proven track record, and unquenchable passion for affordable housing, she became the President of LSNA’s Board of Directors. During her tenure at LSNA, Lissette led many campaigns around affordable housing, including the Balanced Development Coalition, which resulted in the Affordable Requirements Ordinance and the seven year campaign to bring 62 units of affordable housing to west Logan Square, which resulted in Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation’s Zapata Apartments.

For over ten years, Lissette worked at Center for Changing Lives, another close partner of LUCHA. Initially, she served as a HUD-certified Housing Counselor and eventually became part of their administrative team, leading the organization’s efforts around community engagement and individual donor cultivation. She also led the organization as Interim Executive Director during two separate transitions leading to the hiring of their current Executive Director. Outside of her official capacities, Lissette can be found rereading Harry Potter, rewatching The West Wing, and making sure her husband’s pet turtle never misses a meal.

LUCHA’s Board of Directors was quick to recognize that Lissette’s skill set is the perfect match for the organization at this pivotal moment. Ralph Cintrón, LUCHA’s Board President, echoes the excitement of the full board that Lissette Castañeda accepted the invitation, stating that, “She has extensive experience in housing, as an interim director, is intimately acquainted with many of our community-based partners, and has her own networks around the city and elsewhere which she can leverage on our behalf. Lissette’s most recent work as Director of Community Engagement at the Center for Changing Lives is just one example of how her experience and accomplishments align well with the work that we do here at LUCHA.”

Similarly, Lissette expressed that she “could not be more thrilled to join LUCHA’s team. Juan Carlos’ appointment to Mayor Lightfoot’s administration is a testament not only to his incredible leadership, but to the place LUCHA occupies in our community and the City as a whole. LUCHA is an organization like no other and I am eager to bring my knowledge and expertise to help it usher in the next era of leadership.”

While the Board of Directors conducts a national search for LUCHA’s next Executive Director, Lissette will be overseeing a number of projects – including LUCHA’s office relocation, strategic planning process, and the rehabilitation of Humboldt Park Residence. No one could be more fit for the tasks at hand. Please join LUCHA’s staff and Board in extending a warm welcome to Lissette, who has already begun training with Juan Carlos and will assume full duties as of Saturday, June 15th. 

National Homeownership Month

To celebrate National Homeownership Month, LUCHA gathered housing counseling partners across nonprofit, finance and government sectors at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture on June 6th to celebrate the achievements of our housing counseling and education program thus far and look to the future of homeownership. To facilitate a dialogue on homeownership, equitable neighborhood investment, and opportunity, we hosted visual artist and photographer Tonika Lewis Johnson, who presented on her work as a neighborhood advocate in Englewood and her innovative Folded Map Project, a multimedia project centered on the visual mapping of neighborhood narratives regarding urban segregation. Given the opportunity to map our own lives – where we live, work and leisure – we saw with clarity the similarities and differences in our lifestyles as residents in the City of Chicago.

Thank you to our housing counseling partners who invest in our neighbors’ homeownership goals and to creative thought leaders like Tonika who challenge the existing narratives of wealth and opportunity and promote an equitable world that works for everyone.

Juan Carlos Linares joins Mayor Lightfoot’s Administration as the City’s Chief Engagement Officer

 
LUCHA’s Executive Director, Juan Carlos Linares, recently accepted the position of Chief Engagement Officer for the City of Chicago and will be transitioning to Mayor Lightfoot’s administration effective June 17, 2019. While his absence will be felt deeply at LUCHA, we are ecstatic about the impact this will have across our entire city. During his tenure at LUCHA which began in 2013, Juan Carlos grew the organization from 26 staff and a budget of $1.3 million with total assets of $15 million, to a staff of 40 with an annual operating budget of $2.6 million and total assets valued at over $40 million. Clients served also increased from 3,000 annually to over 8,000 today.
 
“When I joined the LUCHA Board in 2007, and then on staff as Executive Director in 2013, I was galvanized by the voices we heard every day about the needs for affordable housing and energy equity, and for safe communities that value its people and its cultural assets.” says Juan Carlos.  To those ends, Juan Carlos launched LUCHA’s Community Law Project and expanded our Resident and Community Services from a half-time staff person to a seven person team. His vision expanded the organization’s influence from the Humboldt Park, West Town and Logan Square communities to the national stage through his leadership around racial equity, particularly as it relates to the intersection of health and wellness, climate sustainability and housing affordability.
 
Under Juan Carlos’ leadership, LUCHA was recently awarded the 2019 Mission Award from the Illinois Green Alliance which recognizes sustainable building efforts in Illinois, and the national Opportunity Finance Network’s 2018 Justice Award. Juan Carlos oversaw the completion of Tierra Linda, which created 45 units of sustainable, affordable rental housing along the 606 trail with an emphasis on health and wellness. In addition to piloting the community Health Action Plan in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, which has subsequently become a national model, Tierra Linda also features the first affordable, multi-family Passive House building in Illinois. 
 
 
Juan Carlos’ innovative spirit and unique experience has inspired practitioners across the globe around fair housing and racial equity as he has presented everywhere from New York City and Miami, to Portland and Los Angeles, to Singapore and Rio De Janeiro. Juan Carlos contributed to the Metropolitan Planning Council’s Cost of Segregation Report and the Puerto Rican Agenda’s 2018 Housing Summit Report. As a steering committee member of Elevated Chicago, Juan Carlos was integral in shaping their Community Engagement Principles and Recommendations which he leveraged as the co-chair of Mayor Lightfoot’s Housing Transition Team – and which has led to his new position with the Mayor’s Office as Chief Engagement Officer.

LUCHA’s Board President, Dr. Ralph Cintrón, remarks that, “Under Juan Carlos’ leadership, LUCHA has continued to address the housing and social service needs of different communities in and around Humboldt Park and the northwest side of Chicago. In this sense, it has maintained its traditions and origins. At the same time, LUCHA is now at the forefront of building sustainable housing that is also affordable. The energy savings that we are providing for our tenants and the innovations that we are shaping for the industry point to an exciting future for the LUCHA family. Juan Carlos has taken us quite far, and we fully expect that he will also be a strong guide for Chicago and our new mayor, Lori Lightfoot. LUCHA is well positioned for our next steps.”

According to Juan Carlos, “Leaving the LUCHA team is bittersweet, since we have built such committed partnerships with our stakeholders, we have served so many families and households in need of our services and we have advanced housing as a human right together.  I take the lessons I have learned from the LUCHA, both professionally and personally, with me as I move on to the next phase of my journey, joining the Mayor’s office. With the strong momentum we have garnered together, I look forward to rooting on and supporting the LUCHA family and its legacy for years to come.” 

Salúd, Juan Carlos! We look forward to working with you in your new capacity and raise a glass to everything your leadership will bring to our great city. The LUCHA team also announces that it is completing its Leadership Transition process and will announce its next steps shortly. 

Tierra Linda Community Garden

This month, LUCHA kicked off its seasonal outdoor activities with the planting of garden beds at Tierra Linda! After years of planning community gardens as part of Tierra Linda’s health, wellness and sustainability goals, we gathered with local residents to lay the foundations for the 2019 growing season. The community garden will reflect Tierra Linda’s community wellness goals in both design and programming aimed at building lasting connections among staff, residents and neighbors. Stay tuned for more updates on garden development and the upcoming harvest!

Foreclosure Prevention Program Graduated (Round 3) Award

Last month, LUCHA was awarded a continuation of funding under the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA)‘s Foreclosure Prevention Program, which supports housing counseling and foreclosure prevention outreach. We’re excited to share that LUCHA has been approved for additional funding under the Foreclosure Prevention Program Graduated (FPPG)! The combination of FPP and FPPG funds will support LUCHA’s efforts to provide culturally-relevant housing counseling and education services – including foreclosure prevention outreach, group education and individual counseling – at no cost to clients. As a HUD-approved housing counseling agency, LUCHA promotes housing stability and generates sustainable community wealth, particularly for Latinx residents in the City of Chicago whose neighborhoods have experienced the highest rates of housing instability since the foreclosure crisis.

Illinois Green Mission Award

On May 14th, the Illinois Green Alliance presented LUCHA with the Mission Award of the 2019 Limelight Emerald Awards ceremony, an annual awards program which recognizes sustainable building efforts in Illinois. LUCHA’s commitment to working at the intersection of housing and health with Tierra Linda earned us the highest recognition with the Mission Award. Tierra Linda bridges sustainable, “green” technology and affordability for low-income residents and ultimately raises the bar for building developers and community organizations which are responsible for creating a holistic response to the healthy and affordable housing crisis by helping families find stable housing without compromising their health, safety, or the environment.

Thank you to the Illinois Green Alliance for recognizing LUCHA’s efforts to advance housing as a human right via sustainable and affordable housing!

Humble Design Service Day

We are continuously grateful for our transformative partnership with Humble Design Chicago, a local organization which creates “home” for families transitioning from homelessness by providing free design and furnishing services. This month, our staff and tenants participated in a volunteer day of service to furnish the home of a longtime LUCHA client who recently welcomed a child. Through equal parts hard work, determination and humor, we together furnished a three-bedroom house in three hours. New additions include a modern dining table for family dinners and outdoor furniture for the backyard just in time for warm days ahead. Please join us in welcoming this family to their new home!

We give endless thanks to our wonderful partners, staff and residents who continue to show up for our critical mission of advancing housing as a human right.

Yoga Class with Resident Services

LUCHA continues to expand its range of programming for its affordable housing tenants and community members! Always innovating, our staff hosted a yoga and mindfulness workshop at our SRO building in partnership with Lowell Elementary School. It has been documented that mindfulness techniques help practitioners of all ages and capacities better cope with stress and encourage self-empowerment, helping them to overcome obstacles that may have seemed impossible before. Through the lesson, Lowell students, class leaders, LUCHA staff and residents learned new ways to be active and present with one another and built further avenues of connection among generations.