High Stakes: A Casino Foundation Takes on the Issue of Affordable Housing

Both affordable housing and workforce development are big issues in the Chicago area lately, so what could be better than a grant that combines the two?

A Grand Victoria Foundation grant is helping a housing rehab effort move forward, thanks to a $68,480 local Habitat for Humanity grant. But it’s also using this affordable housing initiative as an avenue to train local youth with job skills in a key part of the suburbs.  

Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity and East Aurora High School are working together to rebuild a house in a place that has the most dismal affordable housing situation outside of Chicago: the suburb of Aurora. The local Habitat for Humanity chapter has already built 54 homes here and is working on the next four now. It’s also working with local high school students who are at risk of not graduating or finding steady jobs.

East Aurora High School has been working to boost its graduation rates, and although it doesn’t have a building trades program, Grand Victoria wants to provide its students who are not headed to college with valuable skills that could land them jobs. The foundation’s grant will fund a Habitat for Humanity home a block from the high school so that students can easily head over to work on it.

This is just one of 40 programs that the Grand Victoria Foundation is funding through its Building Futures Initiative for 2016. For example, another grant of $31,195 is funding the Association for Individual Development, a local organization that assists people with disabilities, for technology upgrades. Remember, this funder doesn’t shy away from providing equipment and technical support such as vans and one-time needs.

A full list of 2016 grantees can be found on the funder’s website. So far this year, the foundation has published information about $690,000 in grant awards ranging between $10,000 and $300,000 each.

But as the Chicago Tribuneduly noted, Grand Victoria Casino Foundation funding is dramatically dwindling, which is unsettling for local groups who have relied upon its support. When the casino was doing really well, it was awarding about $12 million per year to local groups. However, that figure has gone down to about $3.2 million in more recent years. But grant funds are still definitely available and should be pursued while you still can.

In general, Grand Victoria funds mostly flow to early education, land and waterway protection, and employment development efforts. Core grants are awarded twice per year to nonprofits in Illinois, land acquisition grants are awarded in the state on a rolling basis, and general operating grants are awarded to organizations in Elgin. Core grants are awarded on a statewide scale, on a regional scale in the Chicago metro area, and on a place-based scale in these counties: Cook, Lake, Kane, Will, DuPage, Winnebago, Boone, McHenry, and Kendall.

Grand Victoria isn’t an affordable housing funder per se, but it is concerned with economic vitality, and that issue often lends itself well to housing efforts. Your best avenue as a grantseeker is to pursue an employment core grant that puts local residents to work to improve key community issues, like this grant highlighted here.

The next letters of inquiry deadline is October 7, 2016. After that, you’ll need to get yours in by the first Friday in May.