Case Study: Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing

A photo from the ground of a large brick apartment building against a blue sky. Trees surround the building and a sign reads "renew Aurora Apartments, 2000"
The 2000 Illinois Apartments | Image Credit: ReNew Aurora

Ensuring that all people have access to stable, affordable, and healthy homes requires innovation and creativity. In this series of success stories, we are excited to share inspiration and strategies for keeping housing accessible and safe for those who need it most. For a deeper dive into these models and best practices, explore Preserving Affordable Homes for Equitable, Healthy Communities.


Aurora, Illinois

In Aurora, Illinois, the 2000 Illinois Apartments are home to 128 families who enjoy affordable rents in a location just minutes from major employment centers like Presence Mercy Hospital and close to highways and public transportation. 2000 Illinois is home to a diverse community of families, seniors and students. However, as in many older buildings, physical deterioration threatened both the building’s livability and affordability—paint started to chip, mold began to grow, and outdated and poorly maintained energy and mechanical systems meant higher utility bills for residents. Rising costs and deterioration threatened to displace residents or to create a less healthy living environment.

Mercy Housing Lakefront, a mission-driven nonprofit housing provider, saw this as an opportunity to preserve homes. When the property went up for sale, Mercy needed reasonably priced capital that allowed them to act quickly to secure this building in an attractive location. Mercy partnered with the Housing Partnership Equity Trust and was able to secure a streamlined package of financing resourcesboth a loan and equity investmentthat let them make a quick offer to purchase the property. Mercy’s ability to move quickly allowed them to negotiate a low price that lowered the overall costs so that they could make updates to the apartments while keeping rents affordable.

According to Rick Guzman, Executive Director of the Neighbor Project and former Assistant Chief of Staff in the Aurora Mayor’s Office, “Aurora is a working-class town where many people pay unaffordable rents and endure poorly maintained properties. Without Mercy’s purchase, 2000 Illinois would have likely continued to deteriorate.” Instead, apartments got new windows, lighting fixtures, and modern flooring; storm-water drainage was improved; and the parking lot was repaved. Landscaping and new drywall made the apartments feel more like homes. “There’s a strong body of evidence that tells us that the places where we eat, sleep and play have significant impacts on our health, safety, and sense of wellbeing,” said Mark Angelini, President of Mercy Housing Lakefront. “The improvements at the 2000 Illinois Apartments are a testament to that—the building now feels exciting to live in as opposed to drab.”

Most importantly, Mercy has been able to make these changes with annual rent increases of only one to two percent. Keeping this property as “naturally occurring” rental homes didn’t come naturally. Mercy needed both low cost capital and the ability to move quickly to secure the property at a competitive price. 

Note: As of November 2020, 2000 Illinois has been sold. The sale included a tax credit that will retain affordability on at least a portion of the units.

Transforming investment in communities

CCI is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The California Endowment, and The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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