I just realized that it has been over a month since my last blog. I am ashamed, disgusted, disgruntled. What could possibly be preventing me from endeavoring in one of my favorite pastimes? I finally figured out it is Everyblock, that all-consuming peek into the psyche of people who inhabit my community. In fact you can get hooked on your very own neighborhood or if you are so inclined you can spy on other communities. I personally limit my perusing to Bronzeville. Some of the things I have read on there, well if I let them they might keep me up at night.
For an example, there is a great deal of conversation about the Chicago Housing Authority getting funding from HUD to build more mixed income housing in Chicago. By definition mixed income housing is an effort to construct and/or own a multifamily development that has the mixing of income groups as a fundamental part of its financial and operating plans. In fact it was designed to eliminate housing totally dedicated to people below poverty being concentrated in one area.
There are many arguments pro and con the entire philosophy of what might be called social engineering. I have no intention of addressing them in this blog. I do want to address the vigor and sometimes vinegar being portrayed on Everyblock. People out there in community chat land can be downright vicious.
One lady and I use the term “lady” loosely, has suggested that members of the Everyblock group call into HUD pretending to be residents of competing cities for HUD funding and lobby for the competition. Gasp, she wants us to lie to the federal government via either email or telephone call! I think not and fortunately so did some of our other neighbors. One resident declared that he had not thought of taking the pro funding side but now hoped the Chicago Housing Authority got every dime it could. What is all of this nonsense about?
Well to put it bluntly, some people like the “lady” referenced above think mixed income means low income. “Actually mixed income housing is one of two primary mechanisms to eliminate neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, combat residential segregation, and avoid the building of public housing that offers 100% of its housing units to those living in poverty.” (Wikipedia) The question really is what’s in the mix. Her supposition is that CHA intends to erect only low income housing and all of it in our neighborhood. Derailing HUD funding to CHA is not a viable solution.
CHA is back peddling on its promises to spread the poverty so to speak. As late as October 2012, interim,Executive Vice President of Development at CHA, John Gerut, admitted that the agency needed to refocus on its strategy of one-third market, one-third moderate and one-third low rent. Unfortunately the refocusing seems to be on more “low” and less and less market rate. That is the real source of the uproar.
Oakwood Shores, located in Bronzeville, is an example of what is not working. There has been an incursion of more low income than market rate. The result? Market rate occupants are moving out.
The angst about housing is compounded with the talk of putting a casino at the old Michael Reese Hospital site. I have to agree that a casino would provide jobs but at what price to the surrounding community? What happened to the developer who wanted to do a village at the site complete with retail, business office space and mixed income housing? I heard HUD wouldn’t financially support this type of development. If that is true we need to work to change that policy ASAP.
When I was in one of my sagest and socially conscious moods, I suggested that instead of attempting to prevent CHA from getting funding, our community might lobby for greater involvement in how many units were planned at what rates from market rate to moderate to low income and find a way to work with the various developers, CHA, etc. to look over the vetting procedures used to select tenants. I was immediately accused by the “lady” of being an uneducated, low income, Romney 47%, parasitic slug. I beg your pardon! I have to state she didn’t use these exact words. My vocabulary is broader.
The fact is that I basically agree with her desire to prevent CHA from forcing more of the same for which they are infamous onto Bronzeville. The difference is in our approach. I want our community to work with social justice advocates and policy makers to prevent the atrocities of public housing. I want to see that EVERY community takes its fair share of responsibility for those in need. I want HUD to review the realistic options for creating a community, not just housing. If putting locally owned business units, office space and a mix of housing together in a package builds a stronger community then support it!