Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wanted: CDC for Third Ward

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a symposium at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration about how to revitalize a community without gentrifying it and displacing existing residents. Breakout sessions looked at questions like:

  • Why is my child's school closing? Is there a connection between school closings and gentrification in North Lawndale?
  • How have community organizations in Austin worked to help residents stay in their neighborhood?
  • How do city and other governmental policies affect housing and economic development? What's politics got to do with it?
  • How can community development help grow people's strengths and social resources?

I attended the session on government and how policy plays into development issues. We looked at the situation in Lathrop Homes, where the Logan Square Neighborhood Association has been working with residents to develop an alternative to the CHA Plan for Transformation process. Organizer John McDermott compared the Plan for Transformation to a set menu that doesn't fit everyone's nutritional needs. He noted that because Lathrop is so close to expensive neighborhoods like Bucktown and Roscoe Village, building market-rate homes there would only cater to the wealthiest residents of Chicago.

Instead, residents want to see Lathrop become one-third public housing, one-third affordable rental, and one-third affordable homeownership, to give existing residents the opportunity to "move up" in income without having to move out of their home community to buy a house. Alderman Manny Flores has publicly supported the plan, which is still under discussion with CHA.

Another guest in the session was Third Ward Alderman Pat Dowell, who spoke candidly about the challenge of managing development in a ward that ranges from "White Castle to White House" in demographics and mindset. A big question she faces is how to build homes for families earning $50,000 a year or less. (If you don't know Ald. Dowell, this profile from The Windy Citizen does a good job of capturing her unassuming style and thoughtful approach to her ward.)

She's working on an affordable homeownership project in Fuller Park, where homes would sell for between $160,000 and $190,000. But the median household income in Fuller Park as of 2000 was only $18, 412, putting those homes out of reach for many current residents. Also in 2000, about 30 percent of the neighborhood's homeowners were paying 40 percent or more of their income to keep their homes.

During the session I asked her if her ward had been able to take advantage of New Homes for Chicago, a city program which builds single-family homes, condos and two-flats for moderate-income buyers. Dowell said she'd like to bring in that program, but right now there's no active community development corporation to do the construction work. (The fastest way to find out more about New Homes for Chicago is to put it in Google. I tried to paste in the long and complex link from the City of Chicago web site, but it didn't work.)

I wonder if any of those bright-eyed social work graduate students have buddies in business school they could partner with to start up their own CDC. Social entrepreneurs, opportunity may await you in Chicago's Third Ward.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

zhqwsrThere are already 3 cdc's in the Third Ward. Both Genesis Housing Development and Resurrection Project are doing or have done New Homes projects in this Ward. The Renaissance Collaborative, Inc. is also a cdc and provides comprehensive supportive housing in the Ward.