Monday, May 19, 2008

Who owns Humboldt Park?

Forty years ago, it seemed people could not move fast enough to get out of Humboldt Park. Those were the days of arsons and people fleeing urban areas, not just in Chicago but around the country--when social scientists were predicting "the death of the cities."

Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp. was started in part to help good folks--hard working class folks, as a presidential candidate might say, who wanted to stay in their community. Today Bickerdike is still helping the same kinds of folks to stay in the community, but now instead of mass flight and resulting devaluation of homes, it's the opposite sort of pressure to get out: people with more money who want to move in to the area.

A snapshot from that debate: a video from Humboldt Park No Se Vende / Humboldt Park is not for sale, by Humboldt Park Participatory Democracy Project, Joe Zekas from Yo Chicago, part of the New Homes magazine publishing group, saying he's "disgusted" and some down the middle commentary from Justin Massa of MoveSmart (who happens to work on fair housing issues, as well).

Fair warning, the video is 10 minutes long.

The blogfest on this topic seems to revolve around whether it's OK for Puerto Rican folks in the neighborhood to say keep the yuppies out to keep the neighborhood true to its cultural heritage, or whether that violates the spirit or letter of fair housing laws.

The flipside of strong neighborhoods in Chicago is sometimes de facto segregation, right--thank you Robert Putnam (blog)? For me rhetoric aside we ought to be able to agree that folks who want to leave an urban community, can leave, while folks who want to stay, should have available all the resources that are practical to be able to stay--like affordable rental & homeownership options.

Folks can disagree about what's the right amount and intensity of such programs, but I hope that in this day and age we can also all agree that they need to be in the mix, and that development needs to strike some balance between growth and holding on to the cultural traditions that help to form a community in the first place. I think I'll just say: keep talking, folks!

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