The right to housing vs. profit
On April 25 the Logan Square community in Chicago packed into a meeting just a quarter mile from a homeless encampment. This public hearing to get 100 units of 100% affordable housing to the middle of one of the hottest real estate markets in the city was the result of tremendous public pressure. For years, a large coalition of community groups, churches, and progressive aldermen have organized just to get to this point. Over 600 people jammed into the school gymnasium at Logandale Middle School. Supporters of the project outnumbered the opposition nearly 5 to 1.
Many people there have been priced out of their housing two or three times by rising rents and property speculators. Some 20,000 Latino families have been driven out in the last 10 years. This is a neighborhood where some of those driven out of their homes have frozen to death on the same streets where they once lived. The stakes in this fight are high – it’s the rights of human beings vs. the rights of private property developers.
The meeting was organized so that all could speak. Beautiful plans from the architects and community planners were presented, community members lined up to speak for or against the housing proposal. Green support and red non-support cards were distributed so that the audience could express their opinions visually instead of with cheers or boos. That did not go according to plan. Every big property owner, real estate agent or landlord in opposition to this development was basically chased off the stage by a community that has suffered long enough!
The city of Chicago has hundreds of millions of dollars allocated for public housing and maintenance by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) under successive corrupt city administrations has for 20 years kept that federal money from people who need housing through political manipulation and trickery. Instead, the money has gone to big private property developers via tax loopholes, set asides and other schemes. Over $2 billion in city taxpayer dollars was just approved a week before this meeting to be given to a company called Sterling Bay that will build a gated community for upscale luxury apartments.
Chicagoans recently went to the polls and mandated change from their politicians. Campaign promises were made to bring resources into the neighborhoods, to stop favoring the elite over the needs of the people. So how can we win the battle for housing? We the people can only win when overtaxed homeowners, threatened renters and the homeless unite in common cause. Housing is a human right that all deserve, and it must come first.