If you own a bungalow, or are thinking about buying one, there’s free money available to help you get it all fixed up.

There’s nothing better than free money, especially if you own a 75-year old house that’s in need of some serious TLC.

“I decided a long time ago that I either wanted to live in a greystone two-flat or Chicago bungalow. Those were the types of housing that were appealing to me in Chicago,” says Beth Berger Martin, bungalow owner and artist.

They’re instantly recognizable: Chicago bungalows are one-and-a-half story brick single family homes, built between 1910 and 1940. But it’s the details like stained glass windows, and unique brickwork that make them popular now.

“There are approximately 80,000 bungalows in the city of Chicago. That makes up about 1/3 of the city’s single-family housing stock,” says Allison Garwood Freedland, Historic Chicago Bungalow Association.

Numbers don’t begin to tell the story of these historic homes that were designed to give working class families the opportunity to own their own piece of the American dream.

“It was an opportunity for folks to move out of the two-flats and have a space of their own. Their own lawn, no one living above them or below them. A sense of ownership,” Freedland says.

Bungalows that are more than 75 years old need a lot of TLC. And owners have to be willing to put in the sweat equity.

“What we wanted was a house that hadn’t been too modernized. We wanted to do it ourselves and we wanted to make it more about our lifestyle and our type of living rather than what someone else’s vision was,” Martin says.

All that stripped woodwork doesn’t come cheap. But there is some free money available to help Chicago bungalow owners restore and improve their home. “The first grant is the Energy Savers 1 grant and that is a $1,000 matching grant for window and door improvements,” Freedland says.

There’s also $2,000 available in a matching grant for interior energy efficient improvements, such as a furnace, boiler or hot water heater. Up to $5,000 is available to qualifying bungalow owners to help bring their homes up to code.

Once you’ve spent $5,000 in improvements, you qualify for a $500 grant toward an energy efficient appliance.

“We have a front-loading washing machine that we otherwise would have never purchased,” Martin says.

Finally, bungalow owners can take advantage of the Bungalow Tax Smart program, which gives you up to $2,000 in savings on your federal income taxes.

What do you have to do to get all this free money? Start by getting your bungalow certified — for free — by the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association.

“Once we certify it, you’re a member of the association and you’re eligible for the resources in the program,” Freedland says.

But the best part about owning a historic home is learning who lived there before. The Martin’s bungalow was built by Harry Shannon, who worked for the city’s Building Department.

“Harry must have led a fairly interesting lifestyle because we have what appears to be a prohibition speakeasy in our basement,” Martin says.

On Saturday, the Chicago Bungalow Expo will offer bungalow owners an opportunity to learn more about the resources that are available to help them fix up their properties. The expo is open from 10am to 4pm at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Bungalow Expo will take place on:

Saturday, April 30, 2005
Free parking and free admission
Illinois Institute of Technology Hermann Union building
3241 South Federal Street

Certify your bungalow on site to become eligible for free money For more information call the city’s nonemergency number 311 or go to www.chicagobungalow.org

Published: April 28, 2005