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Senator Durbin tours Rosa Parks Apartments

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) recently joined leaders from housing organizations across Chicago for a tour of the Rosa Parks Apartments in Humboldt Park.

The Nov. 8 tour, which was organized by the Chicago Rehab Network, served as an opportunity to both highlight an outstanding development and engage the Senator in a conversation about the affordable housing needs of Chicago and the direction of housing policy in Washington.

Photo: Eric Young Smith

After greeting housing leaders who gathered at 541 N Homan Ave, Durbin observed the mosaic art piece that adorned the entryway to the building. Joy Aruguete, executive director of Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp., described how the community came together to create the tile mosaics that would depict important events and quotes from the life of the legendary Rosa Parks.

The tour of the building continued with a look at its impressive green features. The group traveled to the roof of the building to get a first-hand look at the solar panels that power each unit’s water heating system and the vegetated roof that serves to reduce water run off and keep the building cool.

Afterwards they visited the basement to examine the geothermal system that works to provide more eco-friendly heating for the air ducts. Durbin praised these green features as immensely important and as the future of affordable housing developments in Chicago and the United States.

Photo: Eric Young Smith

Bickerdike Executive Director Joy Aruguete explains the solar pane water heating system to Durbin.

Durbin then had the opportunity to visit one of the units in the Rosa Parks Apartments, the home of Raiylandra O'Neil. O'Neil greeted the senator and showed him around the apartment.

They spoke of her experience living in the development, and she urged the senator to continue to fight for affordable housing in Chicago.

The group finally made its way to the community room which was set up for a meeting with the senator. After introductions the group spoke about the importance of community development corporations as providers of affordable housing in Chicago and the challenges they were facing as a result of the financial crisis.

Specifically, they spoke of the unwillingness of commercial banks to finance affordable housing projects and to release foreclosed properties to be developed. The senator acknowledged these difficulties and vowed to work with his fellow members in Congress and the Obama Administration to leverage federal resources and influence that would, among other measures, pressure banks into participating in the development of communities.

Photo: Eric Young Smith

Durbin explains how the current political climate in Washington may impact affordable housing across the nation.

As the meeting concluded, the group thanked the senator for his time and expressed their willingness to provide expert testimony before a future congressional hearing on the matter if one were ever scheduled. The senator expressed his gratitude with the offer and the insight he gained from the meeting.

This article first appeared on the Humboldt Park Portal along with a slide show of the event.

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