RAD & MTW in Chicago Creating Greater Impact with HUD Demonstration Programs

The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) has been using HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) to transition about half of its public housing portfolio to Project Based Vouchers (PBVs). RAD is a cost-neutral Demonstration that leverages public and private debt and equity to recapitalize HUD-assisted affordable housing properties. Through RAD, CHA can rehabilitate existing buildings and under-utilized land, providing affordable housing opportunities for seniors, families, and mixed-income households. CHA has also been using HUD’s Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration, which provides participating public housing authorities (PHAs) with an opportunity to develop local strategies that use federal funds more efficiently and flexibly while helping residents become more self-sufficient when seeking housing and employment.

CHA has been able to leverage these two demonstrations to benefit communities across the City of Chicago. This photo essay highlights the innovative approach CHA and city of Chicago are using to transform the lives of residents in two senior properties: Fannie Emanuel in Chicago’s West Side community of East Garfield Park, and Caroline Hedger/Concord at Sheridan in the North Side community of Rogers Park, just blocks from Lake Michigan.

Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan

In June of 2015, CHA received one of the largest RAD awards in the country, obtaining a portfolio award for 10,937 units. To date CHA has converted more than 5,000 residential units across 28 transactions. CHA has been able to forge new partnerships with lenders and investors, garnering additional private funds for improving properties in their portfolio and delivering new mixed-income housing across the City to accomplish RAD and MTW goals. Across Chicago’s 28 closed RAD transactions, the Housing Authority will perform $456 million in hard construction. Nine of these transactions used 4% or 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), totaling $196M in total private sector equity, and seven transactions consist of new construction, which will give residents a brand-new home.

Reinvesting in Senior Wellbeing—Fannie Emanuel

Formerly known as Parkview apartments, Fannie Emanuel is a 181-unit senior apartment building. This property was CHA’s first RAD conversion and part of their plan to modernize their senior properties, many of which are outdated, inefficient, and need improvements in accessibility to improve the wellbeing of senior residents. Due to the age of Parkview’s mechanical systems, a total redevelopment of the building was settled on as the best course of action. The new Fannie Emanuel apartment complex received much needed interior demolitions, extensive site improvements, new heating and electrical systems, new elevators and stairways, and asbestos removal.

The project’s renovations have been completed, and residents received contemporary kitchens and baths, new electrical wiring, and new dining areas with private access to garden spaces. Within the building, they also now have access to a fitness center, community room, a laundry room with high-efficiency washers and dryers that are free to residents, and a rooftop deck with beautiful views of the city’s skyline and Garfield Park.

Linda Larkin was living in Orland Park, a Chicago suburb, with her daughter. When she saw the renovated Fannie Emanuel Apartments and her life changed. “There were a lot of myths based on social media,” she said. “I had a lot of reservations. But we came into the building, and all of that went out the window. I was impressed with everything: the building, the people, everyone I met was pleasant.”

She loves everything about Fannie Emanuel. It’s the first time she has lived in the city in 28 years, when she retired from working for the City of Chicago moved to the suburbs of Chicago: “I’m a people-person. I get along with everybody,” she said. “And everybody is cordial, ‘Good morning,’ ‘good evening.’ That’s beautiful. It’s just nice.”

Providing Opportunities to Residents—Caroline Hedger Apartments and Concord at Sheridan

Across the street from Loyola University Chicago is where CHA will work to provide both family and senior housing in an area of high opportunity, a focus across the country as well as in Chicago. Situated in a Mobility Area (community areas in the City of Chicago with poverty levels below 20% and low violent crime rates), this campus-style property allows CHA to expand housing choice and opportunity in an established neighborhood that offers a mix of residential, commercial, and public spaces in an economically and culturally diverse neighborhood. There are a variety of public transportation options including the Loyola “L” stop on the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line. The local community offers residents job opportunities and amenities that make the neighborhood desirable and livable: grocery stores, parks, day care options banks, libraries, pharmacies and restaurants all located no more than a quarter-mile from the property.

Conversion of a Senior Building to RAD—A Refinancing Opportunity

The Caroline Hedger Apartments are a 449-unit building for senior residents that was converted through RAD in 2016. When CHA first applied for the RAD conversion, the property was undergoing a substantial rehabilitation, funded by CHA Public Housing Capital Funds and other MTW funds. In 2018, CHA refinanced the building through RAD allowing it to utilize 4% LIHTC equity and debt through a tax-exempt bond transaction. The proceeds from this transaction will allow CHA to continue with capital work needed at other buildings converting through RAD. Both the HUD local Chicago Multifamily Hub and the HUD RAD teams were key to this successful financing model.

In addition to the improved apartments, CHA was able to re-construct a large community space for the Hedger Apartments and add an outdoor terrace for the Hedger residents above the parking garage for the new Concord development. Where the residents formerly sat outside at ground level next to a very busy intersection, there is now an elevated terrace area where residents can enjoy landscaped green space that offers a respite from the bustling surrounding neighborhood.

Addition of Family Housing

Adjacent to the Caroline Hedger Apartments used to be a 50-car surface parking lot. Now, this land was transformed into the Concord at Sheridan, a 7-story new construction mixed-use, mixed-income building. At the base of the building is a garage with more 100 parking spaces and approximately 30,000 square feet of ground-level retail space, including a 23,000 square foot flexible format Target store. Above this, the Concord offers a total of 111 family units, 65 one-bedroom and 46 two-bedroom apartments. The Concord was the destination site for 65 family units of assisted housing through a RAD Transfer of Assistance, which is what made the Concord property economically feasible. These apartments are some of the highest in demand among applicants for CHA housing and the tenants have been extremely satisfied with their new apartments.

Financing the Project

What is RAD?

The Rental Assistance Demonstration is a program of the Office of Recapitalization in the Office of Multifamily Housing Programs at HUD. Authorized by Congress under the Fiscal Year 2012 HUD Appropriations Act, RAD allows public housing agencies and owners of other HUD-assisted properties to convert units from their original sources of HUD financing to project-based Section 8 contracts. These new contracts provide a more reliable source of operating subsidy that enables property owners to leverage private capital, such as debt and equity, to finance new construction and/or rehabilitation of rental housing.

What is MTW?

Moving to Work is a demonstration program for PHAs that was initiated in 1996, expanded in 2016, and renewed in 2018. CHA has been a participating PHA since 2000. MTW provides participating PHAs with flexibility to combine funds at the local level to test locally designed strategies that:

  • Increase housing choices for residents,
  • Promote self-sufficiency of residents, and
  • Achieve cost-effectiveness of the projects.


This story was written in collaboration with the Chicago Housing Authority. All photos were provided by the Chicago Housing Authority for use with permission.