Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel couldn't agree more: This year, he began the second section of his neighborhood-based redevelopment plan that focuses recovery on some of the hardest-hit communities.
Humboldt Park, Chatham, Chicago Lawn, West Woodlawn, Auburn-Gresham, West Pullman, Belmont-Cragin, Englewood and Grand Boulevard will all be part of the Micro-Market Recovery Program, which will use a $20 million loan pool to help community groups, nonprofits and private developers buy the properties with city loans and get them in shape and back on the market.
“Given the number of vacant, foreclosed properties in the City of Chicago, it’s important to take a very targeted approach to this type of problem,” said Tom Feltner, vice president of the Woodstock Institute.
The latest round of micro-market loans will be directed at West Pullman, Belmont Cragin, and Chatham. In December, Chicago saw more than 12,075 houses receivea foreclosure filing. In the 60639 ZIP code, which includes Belmont-Cragin, 2,331 properties were in preforeclosure status, according to RealtyTrac, a website that follows foreclosures for possible sale. Preforeclosure status is when the owner of the property has filed a default notice on the property but not yet been foreclosed.
“This is costing the City of Chicago a significant amount of money,” Feltner continued, “and it’s clearly going to take a significant amount of resources to return properties to productive use. It’s important to identify which types of strategies are going to work in this type of pilot program.”
But Simon Swartzman, with Communities United Against Foreclosures and Evictions, questions whether the Micro-Market Recovery Program will tackle any of the deeper causes of foreclosure. “We’re still giving money to banks, which have yet to be sufficiently punished for the foreclosure crisis,” said Swartman, who volunteers primarily in the Austin community.
Of the nine neighborhoods that will be redeveloped under the micro-market program, all of them except for Belmont-Cragin were previous recipients of grants from the Neighborhood Stabilization program. They are also all undergoing changes in their communities that may make them more attractive for development.
West Pullman will be home to Chicago's first Walmart, Humbold Park has been pegged as the newest rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, and Chicago Lawn was a middle class community that had fallen on hard times.
Which brings up the issue of affordability, for the community members still in the area, and new tenants. Feltner says: “There is an acute affordability problem in the city and in the region," he said. "I think anytime that you look at returning properties back to productive use, especially when you have seen this many properties in the foreclosure process, it’s important to keep issues of diversity and housing affordability in mind.”
Photo credit: Nick Bastian
© Community Renewal Society 2011