Three brand new properties geared for people with disabilities are almost ready for occupancy in Forest Park. These newly constructed units, part of a project three years in the making, will be finished by the end of November, according to Dena Bell, lead developer of IFF, the organization responsible for funding and building the housing. The homes are located at 1006 Circle Ave. and 903 and 906 Ferdinand Ave.
IFF, which was originally known as Illinois Facilities Fund, began in 1988. When the organization expanded services beyond Illinois into other states, it changed its name to IFF, describing itself as “a mission-driven lender, real estate consultant, and developer that helps communities thrive by creating opportunities for low-income communities and people with disabilities.” It’s a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) as certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The CDFI Fund was established to provide economic development opportunities in low-income communities through funding and tax credit allocation.
Bell said the Forest Park facilities are part of a bigger network that includes Bellwood, Berwyn and Maywood.
“There are a total of 16 buildings for people with disabilities of all types,” said Bell. The Forest Park and Maywood buildings should be completed by the end of November, and the Bellwood properties by the end of 2019. The application process for the units is finished; residents will rent the homes from IFF.
In Forest Park, the organization purchased three vacant and foreclosed properties and demolished the existing structures. In their place, energy efficient and ADA-compliant residences have been built. IFF housing focuses on accessibility for a variety of disabilities, including apartments with visual alarms for deaf people.
In addition, IFF has partnered with the Progress Center for Independent Living in Forest Park to make sure the residents in the new homes are connected to the organization and the community.
Bell said working in Forest Park to develop the housing was a positive experience.
“Tim Gillian [village administrator] and Steve Glinke [director of Public Health and Safety] were amazing to work with,” she said.
The village, in turn, is happy to have IFF as a partner in the community.
“It’s great that IFF will continue to manage the properties. They have skin in the game,” said Glinke. “IFF has been a pleasure to work with. They brought in great architects and replaced troubled properties with quality, well-built housing.”
The village benefitted from the teardowns in other ways as well. Glinke said they were used by the Forest Park police and fire departments for training and practice prior to demolition, as properties in the village sometimes are.