Wednesday, July 25, 2007


As we mentioned a few days ago all across America more and more people are being forced out of their homes and sometimes into the streets as low income housing disappears before their eyes. In a Chicago neighborhood residents are battling to be able to afford to live where their working class families have lived for generations.

The Chicago Tribune reports a Bronzeville group fighting for affordable housing in the Chicago neighborhood spent much of Monday night putting up 1,800 signs on vacant city-owned properties it hopes to protect from gentrification.

But by 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the city delivered its own message through employees sent to tear down the signs, which read "Yes -- To An Affordable Home on This Lot! No -- To the City's Vision for Bronzeville."

"They don't act this quickly to mow these vacant lots or pick up this trash," said Valencia Hardy (pictured here), a Bronzeville homeowner who participated in the effort. "I don't think they were up long enough to have the impact we were looking for."

The city's vision, they say, is to sell land to developers and price Bronzeville residents out.

When Hardy gazes at the vacant lots stretching from the 120-year-old house on South Calumet Avenue her family has owned for more than 20 years, she sees signs announcing new townhouses starting "in the low $600's." Hardy, a disabled postal service retiree fears that means there will eventually be no room for the likes of her in her neighborhood.

Bronzeville's history as an all-black mixed-income community informs Hourinsg Bronzeville's desire to see a roughly even divide between market-rate housing and middle- and low-income housing, organizers said.

"People who work hard and live right should be able to live in their own community without being threatened by the greed of others," Hardy told the Chicago Methodist Reporter last May, noting that middle-income families couldn't afford Bronzeville today.

Housing Bronzeville is looking to create the Bronzeville Housing Trust Fund. The fund would be financed by a .009 percent increase in the property tax bill of current Bronzeville property owners. The fund would be used to subsidize developers and buyers to create affordable housing. Establishing the trust fund is a three-step process: an advisory referendum (that has already been passed with more than 80% of the vote in the 2004 November general election), legislation, (already written) to be put forth by one of the four Alderman in the area or a Illinois state legislator and, the creation of a binding referendum to put the trust fund into law.

The trouble is no one will sponsor the legislation - even though some alderman in the area claim to support the goals of Housing Bronzeville.

The following is from WLS-TV (Chicago).

Some Bronzeville residents feeling squeezed out

There are a lot of changes going on in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. Change can be good. It can bring a lot of improvements to a community. But a lot of long time residents in Bronzeville are worried they are getting squeezed out.

We've see this happen is other Chicago neighborhoods: new homes go in getting top dollar and those who were there first have to keep up or get out. Some fear Bronzeville's rich history will be lost if those who live to tell the tales will be forced to find less expensive accommodations elsewhere.

Say what you want about the nation's slump in housing, in the Bronzeville neighborhood you'd never know. New developments are going in and vestiges of the less prosperous times are going away. Middle class families that endured the tough times want to stay to enjoy the community's rebirth, but some say financially it's a challenge.

Pastor Jeffrey Cambpell's congregation is in Bronzeville. He wanted to move to the neighborhood where his mother grew up but can't afford it.

"They lived here, they kept the community, the working people kept the community. And now the working people are being priced out of the community that they've kept," said Campbell, Housing Bronzeville.

Tuesday, members of Housing Bronzeville handed out flyers regarding the neighborhood's current housing situation and they put up 1,800 signs. The signs, they say, went up in front of every vacant lot owned by the city. They are concerned new development doesn't offer affordable housing for middle-income families.

Community activists say the high prices are forcing out the very families that add richness to the community.

"It just hurts my soul to see African-Americans, who have been the backbones of this country and who have held the land, saved the land, are now being put off of it," said Cynthia Bowman, Housing Bronzeville.

"If the taxes get much higher it's gonna be a struggle," said Valencia Hardy.

Hardy's father bought their home in 1984 for $34,000 cash. They have kept up their property and the vacant lots nearby. Hardy, now herself a retired postal worker, says she may not be able to kept it up for much longer. Across the street, developers are asking 20 times as much for new homes.

"For the medium-income family, the average new postal worker or bus driver, policeman, they can't afford to live in this area," said Hardy, Housing Bronzeville.

A city spokeswoman issued a statement saying, "The Department of Housing and the City of Chicago work to identify opportunities for affordable housing development in neighborhoods across the city." Activists say, whatever new development comes in, they want their concerns taken into consideration.

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