Mandel Clinic's Housing Initiative Helps Complete First Phase of Chicago's West Humboldt Park Homes

Students Led the Sale Closing Process
Law School Office of Communications
April 6, 2011

Closing on the sale of a home easily falls into the category of major life experience. But when you’re leading the closing process as a law student working on behalf of two nonprofits and a low-income homebuyer, and that home marks a milestone in the creation of an innovative Chicago housing project, the transaction takes on new meaning.

Charles Woodworth, ’11, and Sam Grilli, ’11, with supervision from Jeff Leslie, the Paul J. Tierney Director of the Housing Initiative, spent their Winter Quarter closing on the sale of the home at a new community development on Chicago’s west side. The sale completes the first phase of West Humboldt Park Homes, an affordable housing development for first-time homebuyers.

The students’ work was done as part of the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic’s Housing Initiative, which offers free legal services in all aspects of affordable housing development, with a focus on innovative transactions sponsored by community-based organizations on the south and west sides of Chicago.

“The closing that Charles and Sam put together was no ordinary real estate closing,” Leslie said. “On top of all the regular documentation that goes into consummating a real estate deal–the deed, title and survey, and so forth–they had to coordinate closing requirements for four different funding sources, including a mortgage lender that was new to the ground lease concept and needed considerable education and reassurance before they would agree to come to the table. They did an excellent job of managing the entire project and making it all come together smoothly.”

West Humboldt Park Homes is product of two organizations, the West Humboldt Park Family and Community Development Council and the First Community Land Trust of Chicago, that teamed to build new construction single family homes developed under the City of Chicago’s New Homes for Chicago program. That program provides land and homebuyer incentives to facilitate development of homes for purchase by low-income families. As the homes are completed, the First Community Land Trust of Chicago takes title to the land underlying the homes, and enters into a ground lease with the homebuyer containing very long-term resale restrictions to ensure affordability for future buyers.

To make the homes even more affordable, the project leveraged additional subsidies from the Illinois Housing Development Authority, including state donation tax credits that the project used to obtain private donations that underwrote some of the development costs.

The Housing Initiative has provided counsel for the project since 2004. In this case, the clinic students drafted the First Community Land Trust bylaws, its 501(c)(3) application, and its form of the ground lease and resale restrictions, and negotiated and closed on all the governmental, real estate, and financing contracts for the acquisition, development, and sale of the homes. The Housing Initiative’s work on behalf of the First Community Land Trust continues, as the organization shifts to new development opportunities to benefit the West Humboldt Park neighborhood and its low-income residents.

Jeff Leslie