A Place to Call Home: Building Affordable Housing on Chicago’s North Shore

Morgante Wilson Architects

Dec 2, 2021 - 5 min read

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A Place to Call Home:  Building Affordable Housing on Chicago’s North Shore

The passion we feel about the homes we design is profound. To be given the opportunity to design the space that will anchor a family’s life – the space in which relationships will flourish, experiences will be shared, and people will celebrate their most important moments – is a blessing we will never take for granted. As residential architects, we’ve seen first-hand the life-changing impact a thoughtfully designed home can have on its occupants. As residents of Chicago’s North Shore suburbs, we’ve also come to see the tremendous need for affordable housing that exists in our own backyard.

Hence our very deliberate decision one year ago to launch the Morgante Wilson Foundation. The Foundation’s purpose is simple: to provide affordable housing to families in need. Its premise is equally simple: to ensure that housing stays affordable, through the Community Land Trust model, in perpetuity. As you may have read on this blog before, what that means is that while the families who own these homes can sell them at a profit, but the cost to purchase the home will always be approximately 30% less than the market value because the land is held in a land trust in perpetuity.

The first of fourteen new homes destined to become Wilmette’s first permanently affordable housing was recently purchased by the Community Partnership for Affordable Housing with the support of the state, county, Village of Wilmette, and the Morgante Wilson Foundation. To celebrate this milestone event, we recently co-hosted an Open House so our friends, neighbors, clients, and nearby community members could share in our excitement for having reached this goal in just our first year of existence.

See Isabelle's work at https://www.isabellehwilson.co...

Along with a tour of the house itself, and the opportunity to meet the various stakeholders involved in bringing affordable housing to the Village of Wilmette (and surrounding areas), Open House guests were able to meet local artist Isabelle Wilson, whose work graces the walls of the newly refurbished home. We chose Isabelle’s art not only because it’s arresting and thought-provoking, but because Isabelle shares our belief that everyone should have “a place to call home.” Her work provided an artistic representation of the purpose of the Morgante Wilson Foundation.

As Isabelle’s artist’s statement explains, “Graduating from college into a pandemic, Isabelle only had her bedroom as a space for making artwork. Dealing with the fear and anxiety of Covid-19, Wilson turned to making intricate drawings with accessible home materials like paper, pencil, tape, watercolor, coffee, and tracing paper. Everyone had to adjust quickly to such a sudden change to our daily lives, but what many of us have the privilege to take for granted is that we were able to reflect and establish new habits in the comfort of a home.”

This comfort is sometimes lacking for families who find themselves, often after having done everything “right” but suffering from unforeseen hardship wrought by, say, job loss or medical expenses, suddenly in a situation where safe, stable housing is no longer a given. It was our pleasure – and indeed, our privilege – to display the work Isabelle loaned us for the open house as another means of driving home the importance of housing for every one of our neighbors.

We are immensely grateful to Isabelle Wilson for her temporary installation, and to everyone who has supported the mission of the Morgante Wilson Foundation over the past year. Our recent Open House was proof of the impact we can make as a whole when we come together as individuals in support of a worthy cause. Thank you!