Don Duszynski and Sean Connolly are founders of Strata Investments, a real estate development company that rehabilitates vacant properties and creates affordable housing for families in Chicago Housing Authority’s Housing Choice Voucher Program. The company also offers properties to first time homeowners and renters. Their mission is to provide excellent affordable housing options in thriving, desirable neighborhoods. Strata helps families find affordable housing in the buildings and neighborhoods that best suit their needs.
Don and Sean met when they worked together at Sean’s prior company. With Sean’s entrepreneurial drive, he proposed a partnership with Don’s background as a CPA to do something about all the vacant properties that resulted from the Great Recession. In 2012, they launched Strata Investments and soon found themselves managing a total of 39 properties providing 44 units of housing in Chicago’s South and West Sides. A total of 71% of their tenants receive some form of subsidy where they may pay 30% to 60% of the total cost of rent through the voucher program. Strata has sold 15 of their fully renovated properties to first time home buyers. In total 86 families now live in renovated properties from Strata.
Strata acquired a two flat building on South Rhodes in the Chatham neighborhood and applied for financing from CCLF to rehab the property. “We worked with a number of lenders in the past but heard that CCLF had a similar mission to ours and better financing terms,” stated Don. CCLF provided Strata a loan for $166,100 and Strata went to work on the 1,230 square feet in each unit providing high quality upgrades such as wood floors, cabinets and kitchen appliances including a dish washer. “We stay true to our building standards for each property and this property has the expanded living room, formal dining room, three bedrooms and an extended walk in closet. We use granite counter tops and all new mechanicals to ensure long lasting durability for the new owner,” explained Don.
On Fat Tuesday, February 28, 2017, Strata sold the property to a first time home owner, Chris Bush, giving Mr. Bush a whole new reason to celebrate Mardi Gras. Homeownership is the primary asset for building wealth in America for many low and middle income working families and now the Bush family has an income generating property that will be an investment in their future.
“It’s been gratifying to partner with Strata Investments to turn a vacant property into a high-quality, affordable home for a first-time homeowner. Strata has successfully revitalized the housing stock in neighborhoods hit hard by foreclosure while being profitable as a company,” said Lincoln Stannard, Portfolio Management Officer at Chicago Community Loan Fund. “As they grow their business in 2017, we look forward to working with them to provide more affordable housing and stabilize communities across Chicago.” Some of the communities that Strata has worked in are on the South and West Sides, including the communities of Humboldt Park, Austin, Chatham, Woodlawn, Auburn-Gresham, Calumet Heights, and South Shore.
Strata Investments participated in CCLF’s Neighborhood Lending Investor Program which is a financing product that enables mission driven customers with a higher loan-to-value and low equity threshhold, to buy and rehab properties which have a low appraised value due to the impacts of the foreclosure crisis.