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Leopardo Cos. Partners With Affordable Housing Developers To Solve Housing Shortage


As housing affordability remains out of reach for many Americans, the problem is especially acute in big cities like Chicago.

According to the National Low Income Housing Association, the U.S. is short 7 million affordable rental units, and no state or city has enough affordable housing for its residents. 

Rents in the Windy City have increased 8% this year, while the inventory of affordable housing units has declined. The city has experienced a 5% decrease in affordable housing units in recent years, with some neighborhoods witnessing up to a 15% decline.

Many Chicagoans now face the difficult choice of moving to a more affordable city or spending more of their monthly income on rent, which for some may not be feasible.

“People are struggling to make ends meet with everyday expenses,” said Mike Mastin, senior vice president of residential at Leopardo Cos. “We need to build more affordable housing to help reduce the cost of living.”

Leopardo Cos. is a vertically integrated construction company based in the greater Chicago area that specializes in a wide variety of construction services, including pre-construction, development, technology, procurement and project management.

The firm’s expansive portfolio includes affordable housing, market-rate residential, medical, commercial, retail and hospitality projects. While the bulk of its construction projects are in Illinois, for the last two decades, Leopardo has successfully completed out-of-state projects for its clients.

Due to the nationwide need for more affordable housing, the company plans to continue expanding its geographic footprint and bring its expertise to other states.

Leopardo recently broke ground on an adaptive reuse project in downtown Cleveland, at the former AT&T headquarters. The firm also opened a regional office in Orlando, Florida, and will soon be opening another office in Cleveland.

While the construction industry as a whole continues to feel the brunt of rising interest rates, increased materials prices and supply chain setbacks, there is still a steady demand for multifamily projects, especially affordable housing. Mastin said there’s also legislative support from Washington, D.C.

The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act includes provisions for new and expanded tax credits to address housing inequities and directs $1B to grants and loans for improving energy and water efficiency as well as climate resilience in U.S. Housing and Urban Development-assisted multifamily housing.

“In order to make our affordable housing projects a reality, many developers that we work with are taking advantage of low-income housing tax credits and other forms of financing,” Mastin said. “Due to this, we continue to see a mix of both new construction and renovation or adaptive reuse projects.” 

At the Sheffield Apartments in Lincoln Park, one of the city’s largest affordable housing projects, Leopardo, in conjunction with Ujamaa Construction, is redeveloping 405 residential units in two 11-story buildings, totaling 245K SF. The firm is also constructing another 120K SF, six-story residential tower with 80 units and amenity space. Slated for completion in 2024, the units will be a mix of market-rate and affordable housing spaces.

Throughout the entire construction process, Leopardo involves members of the community by working with subcontractors that may not otherwise be large enough or financially capable of handling such sizable projects, Mastin said.

“When given the opportunity to work on a project in their own community, people take a sense of pride in the work they’ve done,” he said. “By partnering with local subcontractors, we're able to break off pieces of our projects to get them involved and gain experience with working on large projects that will reshape their communities.”

At Prairie Shores, a five-tower, 1,675-unit apartment complex located in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, Leopardo completed construction of the property’s two-story amenity center. Affectionately dubbed “The Hub,” the 17K SF center includes a conference room, outdoor grills, fire pits, a fitness center, lounge seating and a rooftop deck. 

“It's a great environment for the residents to gather and come together,” said Leo Everson, senior director of business development at Leopardo. “At Leopardo we are incredibly proud of our ability to partner with developers and local subcontractors to transform affordable communities like Prairie Shores. We are looking forward to replicating this success in new markets.”

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Leopardo Cos. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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