Housing activists point to a series of city initiatives that constitute a concerted campaign to drive poor and moderate income people out of the 46th ward, according to several community organizations serving Uptown.
Andy Thayer, the outspoken critic of gentrification taking place across Chicago says: “Rather than put new funds into housing the homeless, the city of Chicago has responded with illegal police harassment of the homeless, threatening to destroy their possessions, including tents that offer a measure of protection against the oncoming winter.
“Several low-income housing projects – single room occupancy aka SROs – that service low-income residernt are being threatened with closure. Mayor Emanuel and Uptown Alderman James Cappleman approved a $15.8 million TIF giveaway to a politically connected developer to develop luxury housing with one bedroom apartments renting for over $2000 a month,” he states.
For lack of a few hundred thousand dollars – chump change compared to the millions Cappleman has showered on housing for the wealthy – the shelter at the Preston Bradley Center is slated to close just before Christmas the groups allege.
“The neighborhood has lost over 1000 units of SRO housing since Cappleman was elected, most recently losing 163 units at The Lorelei on Lawrence and 75 units at The Hazleton on Montrose.
“Rather than follow the will of numerous City-organized community meetings to transform the old Stewart School into affordable housing and other community-friendly projects, Emanuel’s hand-picked Board of Education sold it to a private developer to do as they will.
“To add insult to injury, this past Monday with almost no notice, the City shut the pedestrian walkway in front of the school, evicting the homeless staying there,” he continued.
Collectively, the community groups support transit-oriented development for those who truly need it: people who can’t afford cars. Alderman Cappleman is promoting re-zoning of the property at Broadway and Wilson to build a 197-unit high rise, presumably at “market-rate” rents, Thayer says.
As more low-income housing is destroyed, whether by the CHA or private developers, the rents of all working class people increase as more people chase fewer units of affordable housing,” said Mike Smith who witnessed his affordable apartment converted to condominiums a year ago.
“It’s simple market economics. Uptown is losing the economic and racial diversity that has made it unique in the city. To have this segregation aggressively promoted by our sitting alderman is an insult to the working class people of all races who have long lived here.”
According to Aqueela Ali, who has lived in Uptown for over 35 years said, “The area really started gentrifying after former Ald. Hellen Shiller left office.” She pushed back on development and helped preserve a lot of affordable housing Ali states.
Monday’s action has several specific demands:
Stop City harassment of the homeless, much of which is patently illegal and unconstitutional, according to the group.
Extend full funding to preserve all existing, affordable housing, including the North Side Housing and Supportive Services shelter located at 941 W. Lawrence, slated to close down just before Christmas due to the state budget mess. Keeping the shelters open would cost a small fraction of what other area subsidies to the wealthy cost.
Implement large-scale, new funding to institute a “housing first” strategy for the homeless. Other cities have shown that such a strategy not only lessens homelessness, but has huge cost savings over the city’s present policy of harassment and neglect.
End public funding for luxury housing. Any development that requires public assistance (including zoning or easement changes) must require that 33% of the units be affordable to low-income residents.
The JDL buildings on the Maryville site must have at least 20% affordable units.
Today the North Side Action for Justice, the Uptown Tent City Organizers and the Gay Liberation Network are planning a march at 5:30 PM.
The march will begin at the focal point for the controversy, the homeless tent city by the Wilson Ave / Lake Shore Drive viaduct, with a march on Alderman James Cappleman’s 46th Ward office at 4544 N. Broadway.