Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood is at a crossroadsWith its high vacancies, the predominance of renters and the rapid completion of the nearby Obama Presidential Center all contributing to rising property values.

Now, frustrated by the city’s efforts, which they say have fallen short in preventing displacement around the Obama site, a group of Chicagoans is trying to hold a referendum on the February 28 vote, which would include nearly New housing protection is being sought for nearby residents.

A similar coalition secured protection for Woodlawn after a five-year campaign and lengthy negotiations with city housing officials. But organizers in the South Shore say they were put off, and the Chicago Department of Housing announced initial steps to help area condo owners.

For the past several weeks, the South Shore Community Benefits Agreement Coalition has been knocking on doors and asking voters to sign a petition with a comprehensive list asking city leaders to “stop the displacement” of local residents Asked: Increase funding for home repairs, Increase home ownership, Provide property tax and rent relief, Enforce eviction protections, Change application restrictions and fees, Affordable city-owned vacant lots To develop housing and create local employment programmes.

Volunteers Sahar Panjwani, from left, Bethel Kifley, Bronwen Schumacher and Brent Bradford work on collecting petition signatures aimed at resolving affordable housing issues in the South Shore neighborhood.

Dixon Romeo, a CBA coalition and leader of Not Me We, a community organization focusing on housing, organization education and mutual aid.

The referendum, which the group aims to vote on at 16 precincts, will help show city officials that displacement concerns are real, “that this is a priority for South Shore and we need to get it done as soon as possible.” There is a need,” Romo said, adding that the center is expected to open in the fall of 2025.

The coalition is circulating a separate petition from nearby Woodlawn residents asking whether “at least 75% of the city-owned vacant lot at 63rd Street and South Blackstone Avenue should be truly affordable housing where working families make less than 30% of their income.” don’t pay more” rent – ​​how to ensure residents can afford to live in the neighborhood as housing costs rise?”

The questions will be non-binding, but supporters hope will be included on the ballot and a “yes” vote will help spur area aldermen to action. Long serving Ald. Leslie Hairston, whose 5th Ward comprises the largest portion of the neighborhood, is retiring at the end of this term. Other aldermen along with parts of the neighborhood — Mitchell Harris, 8th, and Gregory Mitchell, 7th — are running for re-election on the same February ballot.

Brent Bradford listens to Dixon Romeo during an affordable housing volunteer meeting on October 22, not shown.

There has been a loss of low-cost rental units across the city, but the South Shore has seen its share of households living in rents under $900—a key measure of affordability—decline 23% since 2010, the city’s Slight drop in comparison. The number of households with rents below $900 fell from about 12,000 in 2010 to about 8,000 in 2020, according to census data analyzed by DePaul University’s Institute for Housing Studies.

Housing prices in the South Shore, meanwhile, have risen faster than prices in the city overall since 2015, when the Obama Foundation announced the center would be located on the South Side.

Between 2015 and 2021, the median sale price of single-family homes rose nearly 200% in the South Shore, but only 50% in the city, according to recorded transfers tracked by the institute. For condos, that number rose 117% in the South Shore compared to 9% citywide. The median sale price for buildings with two to four units increased 231% during that period in the South Shore and 67% citywide.

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That’s welcome news for existing homeowners, whose properties are now worth more, says Sarah Ware, president of the Chicago Association of Realtors. Ware has lived in the South Shore for 15 years.

“It’s cool to see, ‘Wait, I’ve got some equity now?’ Ware, who describes the neighborhood as a lakeside gem. “A lot of my neighbors, our houses are a big equity builder. It’s been disinvested for so many years that we’re hoping to follow the trend when it comes to retail.

Volunteer Bronwen Schumacher, left, talks with Lee E. Wren about an affordable housing petition on October 22.

Meanwhile, city officials say they are actively working on measures to help homeowners and renters. In July, the City Council created a new pilot conservation program that sought to help owners of condo and cooperative buildings in the South Shore at risk of being converted to high-cost rental units.

The funding, which has not yet been approved by city council, is designed to help owners pay for deferred maintenance or obtain loans for fix-ups. Ideally, it would allow long-term residents, “many of them older and on fixed incomes,” to remain in their homes, the city said in a release.

Housing Department spokeswoman Samantha Hill said the department has held “more than 100 meetings” with homeowners associations in the neighborhood to set up its administration to set them up to receive the loans. About 150 units in 14 adjacent buildings have been “stabilized or are in the process” of being preserved through the city’s existing endangered buildings initiative.

For the city-owned lot in Woodlawn, Hill said officials anticipate developing “a large mixed-use planning effort that will include affordable housing” in the area between the Metra tracks and Stony Island Avenue.

“The department considers this a gateway site for the redevelopment of Woodlawn’s 63rd Street corridor,” and the city’s Woodlawn Central Development, YMCA and Mount Carmel High School campus, Hill said.

City council has recently approved the construction of a handful of new affordable homes, and an affordable 33-unit building proposal is planned as part of the Thrive Exchange development. Hill said. The city has also provided rent relief during the citywide pandemic, and is providing funding for legal counsel for individuals undergoing eviction proceedings.

But Romo said the city hasn’t taken quick enough action, especially to address rising rents.

“At this point, the city has a long history of saying things and either doing nothing or doing the opposite,” he said. “We want to work with the mayor, the aldermen, the housing department to get a comprehensive housing ordinance that incorporates everything we put forth in our demands, that helps renters, condo owners and homeowners. Huh.”

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