College of Business > News & Events > Institute for Housing Studies Awarded $100,000 Grant

Institute for Housing Studies Awarded $100,000 Grant


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The Institute for Housing Studies (IHS), an applied research center situated in the Real Estate Center at the Driehaus College of Business, has received a $100,000 grant from the Polk Bros. Foundation. 

The grant, which will be spread out over two years, will support the IHS in building meaningful, long-term partnerships with community organizations, said IHS Executive Director Geoff Smith.  

“There are different ways to approach these kinds of community engagements,” he said. “But the way we do it is we built a lot of relationships.”  

This kind of sustained engagement, Smith stressed, demands a considerable investment of time — and staff.  

“That’s where philanthropy comes in,” Smith said. “This grant is a good example of that type of funding that allows us to spend some extra time doing this work.”  

The Institute for Housing Studies uses data to help community-based organizations in Chicago – particularly the South and West Sides – better serve local needs. Much of this work, Smith stressed, arises organically from ongoing relationships with community organizations.  

In one example, the IHS partnered with the Garfield Park Community Council, a group based in East Garfield Park. A state program offered financial assistance to homeowners who had fallen behind on their property tax bills. The IHS analyzed data to help the group identify candidates and likely candidates for the program.  

In another case, the IHS joined forces with the Northwest Center and the Northwest Home Equity Assurance Program, community groups working in Belmont Cragin, among other neighborhoods on Chicago’s northwest side. The groups hoped to provide grants to help low-income homeowners with home improvement projects. The IHS helped the organizations target their outreach efforts by analyzing a wide range of data sources, doing everything from identifying homes that had been owned by the same family for decades to triangulating census tracts where economic conditions pointed to a need for financial support. 

In both cases, the IHS worked closely with their community partners to determine how best to use, analyze and package the data in question.  

“They know the issues that are happening in their neighborhoods,” Smith said of the institute’s community partners. Where data come in, he said, is as a tool to help community organizations “tell the story of what’s happening in their neighborhoods in a way that resonates with audiences like funders, the media, or elected officials.”  

Focusing the efforts of full-time staff on maintaining partnerships, meanwhile, gives students the ability to engage with the center based on their interests and skills. 

“Especially if they're interested in affordable housing, or in the policy space, or in applied research,” he said, “the experience students get with us is really valuable.” 

Ultimately, Smith said, grants like the one from the Polk Bros. Foundation help the IHS focus on its central mission as an applied research center: providing information that is immediately useful to groups on the ground.  

“Philanthropy allows us to spend the time building those relationships, which then helps us understand the questions that [community groups] are trying to answer,” Smith said.  

The end goal: “Build a product that helps answer that question and is useful to practitioners.”