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Peter Holsten Honored for Work Promoting Affordable Housing

By Josh McGhee | October 28, 2015 9:53am
 Holsten will be honored at the fifth annual Community Sustainability Awards this Thursday.
Holsten will be honored at the fifth annual Community Sustainability Awards this Thursday.
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Courtesy of Holsten Human Capital Development

CHICAGO — Ever since Peter Holsten was a young child, he was known as an innovator who was able to fix anything in the house or around the neighborhood.

By his mid-20s, he bought his first "fixer" building in Albany Park, beginning a long career in innovative rehab practices that helped promote affordable housing, according to a press release.

Thursday night, Holsten will be given the Community Sustainability Award from Holsten Human Capital Development for his 40 years of service in affordable housing.

In December 2002, his work on North Town Village Development, which was once the Cabrini-Green projects, was featured on CBS' "60 Minutes."

“Affordable housing and I were meant to be. As a kid, I recall observing in public the mistreatment of people based on race and income, and being appalled at the injustice," Holsten said. "I believe everyone deserves to live with dignity.  So at least I can help the less fortunate with their housing needs. Sometimes creating affordable places to live is extremely difficult, but it has to get done. It’s what my company does.”

Watch the "60 Minutes" segment featuring Peter Holsten's work:

“I grew up fixing stuff out of boredom. I was the neighborhood handyman as I got older; I always had constructions jobs during the summers from school," Holsten said.

After grad school, Holsten bought the Albany Park building for a down payment of $10,000 and put his life savings towards the building, which already had 15 occupied apartments, the press release said.

After rehabbing that building, he spent the next 11 years working with bankers and community groups such as the North River Commission, Edgewater Community Council and the Chicago Rehab Network "to Community and rehab many walk-up and elevator buildings."

By 1986, he was able to quit his day job in the steel industry and began rehabbing a 77-unit building in Edgewater, the release said.

The next year, he refinanced his Albany Park properties and bought a 154-unit building in Uptown and began working with former Ald. Helen Schiller. This was the first he began working with government financing, the press release said.

As he continued to work with social service agencies interested into getting into the housing market, he became known for layered financing, which uses "tax credits, Illinois Housing Development Authority money, city money, grants and bank ... mortgage money" to complete the project.

In 1999, a request for proposal was put out for the first phase of redevelopment of Cabrini-Green, giving respondents about 60 days to develop a proposal that included housing, parking, green space and a new concept — mixed-income housing.

Holsten partnered with Harold Lichterman, of the Kenard Corporation, to develop mixed-income housing in the form of condos and rentals on the 7-acre parcel on Halsted Street just north of Division Street. Their proposal won and the 261-unit North Town Village was built, the press release said.

That year, Holsten formed Human Capital Development to provide property management services, and it later became known as the non-profit Holsten Human Capital Development. The non-profit focuses on "resident transition, community building and workforce development," the release said.

In 2005, Holsten Real Estate and Kenard Corporation were chosen to develop "the Extension of North Cabrini-Green" which consisted of 18 acres at Division and Larrabee streets. What was unique about this project was that the Cabrini-Green tenant organization was a partner in the development. Six hundred units of the development, which is known as Parkside of Old Town, have been completed or are in construction the release said.

“We manage the properties that we build/develop, and have learned that property management — especially of affordable housing — is not without its challenges. Having access to Holsten Human Capital Development is key because many residents have challenges," Holsten said.

"Some had been steps away from homelessness, and plenty have had a fair amount of trauma in their lives related to familial or financial issues. Most have a minimal amount of money to live on, or need help finding employment. Building rules need to be followed in order for a household to stay lease-compliant. Having an organization like HHCD dedicated to assisting residents in these practical ways, is crucial,” he said.

Holsten's group has also partnered with Holsten Real Estate Development to buy and rehab the historic Lawson House YMCA, at 801 N. Dearborn St. The building will be turned into about 450 apartments, displacing few residents and only minimally increasing rents, the release said.

The Fifth Annual Community Sustainability Awards take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday at Kasbeer Hall at Corboy Law Center, 25 E. Pearson St. Tickets for the award ceremony can be bought here.

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