Another hit to affordable housing: Skender’s modular construction firm closes

Skender Manufacturing opened in May 2019, with Sterling Bay agreeing to build dozens of prefab apartments across Chicago

Chicago /
Sep.September 25, 2020 10:21 AM
Skender Manufacturing CEO Mark Skender

Skender Manufacturing CEO Mark Skender

In May 2019, Skender started a modular construction firm, which Sterling Bay said it would use to build dozens of affordable apartment buildings in vacant lots across Chicago.

Less than 18 months later, Skender Manufacturing has shut down, unable to raise enough funds for the venture, according to Crain’s. The firm closed its factory on the Southwest Side.

“Really what it came down to was raising capital,” Skender Manufacturing CEO Mark Skender told Crain’s. “Obviously, it was a tough decision, but I still believe in the business model. This is what the housing industry needs.”

The Sterling Bay deal also never happened. That’s despite the fact that the Lincoln Yards developer announced in May 2019 it had a contract with Skender to start production to build 10 nearly identical three-flats on the West Side.

The same month, Mayor Lori Lightfoot touted Skender Manufacturing at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new factory.

“The addition of new modular units will improve access to sustainable housing, prevent homelessness, and ensure that as Chicago grows all of our neighbors can afford to grow too,” she said at the time.

Chicago’s efforts to build and promote affordable housing have yielded little results, according to a citywide task force finding this month. The report found that an ordinance requiring developers to build more housing for low- and moderate-income households has created just 1,000 homes in 13 years, while the city’s affordable housing shortfall has surged to nearly 120,000 homes.

Skender construction, the parent company, has also had a tough time, forced to cut jobs because of the economic impact from the pandemic. The firm said it has bounced back, and was on track to post revenue of about $400 million this year, down just 3 percent from 2019, Crain’s reported. [Crain’s] — Sasha Jones


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