Voice of the People in Uptown

Announces Formation of

“Diversity Land Trust” Exploratory Committee


Chicago, IL     March 15, 2021

CONTACT: Michael C. Rohrbeck, 312.217.4211                                                               

Voice of the People in Uptown, a resident-controlled housing organization of more than 50 years, is announcing the formation of an Exploratory Committee to establish a community land trust — one dedicated to housing with lasting affordability.  The tentatively named “Diversity Land Trust”, if determined feasible, would begin with three rental properties owned by Voice and financed by the Community Investment Corporation (CIC). It would be structured with benefits in mind that could attract other housing providers as members.

A blue-ribbon panel of experts in affordable housing and real estate development have volunteered to advise Voice’s community board on ways to assure housing affordability — beyond the bounds of any one property’s ownership and lender requirements.

Paul Siegel, Voice Vice-President

Paul Siegel, a PhD in history and Vice-President of Voice’s community board said “Uptown has had a historic role as a racially and economically diverse community, where displacement policies favored gentrification and undermined affordability”. As a former organizer of victims of black lung disease from the 1970’s, he’s seen how things can change in a community. 

“In that context and within our vision, innovative community land trusts that bring together affordable housing and service providers; government officials, lenders and investors to sustain existing affordable housing can play a significant role.”

Community Land Trusts have been set up around the country to acquire, own or maintain land and properties as affordable long term. Most enable subsidized purchase of single-family, condo or residential homes, where owners can sell when they want, but only with limited appreciation in value. This allows properties to remain available to lower-income, working class owners in a land trust. 

Calvin Holmes, CCLF

This model is being pursued with the quasi-governmental Chicago Community Land Trust (CCLT), the new Chicagoland Owners Land Trust (COLT) and with lenders supporting resident and community-controlled housing in the Chicago Community Loan Fund (CCLF) — all allies in the exploratory committee.

However, the Diversity Land Trust concept proposed by Voice would be the first of its kind in Chicago — focusing on leased apartment buildings.

Jeff Leslie, University of Chicago

According to Jeff Leslie of the University of Chicago Law School, “the strategy would be to structure a trust that could grow with Voice of the People and other housing providers, defining what a low income community land trust is, and building in mechanisms to assure affordability and to rescue troubled properties when necessary”.  In the ideal, the members of the trust would be bound together with property tax and other service benefits that could strengthen viability of the projects long term.

Ted Wysocki, U2CanDo

Ted Wysocki, former CEO of the Uptown-based Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) and principal of U2CanDo Consulting, will serve on the Exploratory Committee. ICA has a history of dialogue and coalition building for social and environmental justice. “ICA has been raising awareness about the negative consequences of gentrification in Uptown since it became a stakeholder in 1972.  Now Uptown merits a new narrative that embraces it as Chicago’s most racially and economically diverse community. A land trust can assure Diversity Brings Success.”

Jennie Fronczak, CCLT

Jennie Fronczak, Executive Director of the Chicago Community Land Trust, stated that “we’ve been doing this work with single-family homes and condos since 2006.  It’s vital that our city continues to expand affordable housing opportunities in communities facing high displacement pressure. If we can share experience that can help out this strategic initiative, we are all in”.

Jack Markowski, CIC

According to Jack Markowski, the President of CIC, “land trusts have been an effective tool for creating and preserving affordable single-family housing.  Our challenge is to see if this concept can work for multi-family housing in Chicago”.

In 2021, the Exploratory Committee will be inventorying issues, questions and options for structuring a Diversity Land Trust.  They will seek input from housing providers and potential DLT Members. 

The committee will convene meetings with government and property tax assessment officials, funders and lenders – to consider feasibility and recommendations for start-up of a land trust in 2022. 

 Diversity Land Trust Exploratory Committee

  • Jennie Fronczak, Chicago Community Land Trust (CCLT)
  • Andrew Geer, Enterprise Community Partners
  • Veronica Gonzalez, National Housing Partnership
  • Calvin Holmes, CCLF/Chicagoland Ownership Land Trust (COLT)
  • Rachel Johnston, CRN/Center for Shared Ownership (CSO)
  • Rafael Leon, Chicago Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation  (CMHDC)
  • Jeffrey Leslie, University of Chicago Law School, Housing Initiative Transactional Clinic
  • Peter Levavi, Brinshore Development
  • Jack Markowski, Community Investment Corporation (CIC)
  • Larry Pusateri, the Lightengale Group
  • Paul Siegel, Voice of the People in Uptown, Inc
  • Yittayih Zelalem, University of Illinois Voorhees Center for Neighborhood & Community Improvement
  • Kelvin Strong, Voice Partner/Near North Development Corporation (NNDC)
  • William Miceli, Miner Barnhill & Galland
  • Ted Wysocki, U2CanDo


Chicago Community Land Trust (CCLT)

Chicagoland Owners Land Trust (COLT)

Grounded Solutions Network

University of Chicago Law School, Housing Initiative Transactional Clinic

Community Investment Corporation (CIC)

Voice of the People in Uptown, Inc