Woodlawn Residents Challenge HUD and The City of Chicago

Woodlawn resident, particularly homeowners, are fed up with their voices not being considered in community planning.

Currently the largest point of contention for some is the off site housing development component of the Grove Parc redevelopment plan.

According to a recently launched petition at change.org:

“In Chicago’s Woodlawn community there is currently a high concentration of HUD project-based Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) units as well as tenant-based HCV families families residing in investor properties. Combined with this is the high number of foreclosures that we are experiencing. These factors as well as the lower median income for families living in Woodlawn cause our blocks to be more vulnerable to the spike in violent crimes and gang activity that we are faced with on a daily basis.

We are strongly opposed to the off-site housing development component of the Grove Parc redevelopment plan. We firmly believe that the current plans by the Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) to concentrate 51 HUD project-based HCV units in blighted sections of our neighborhood will undoubtedly lead to further decline in these census tracts.”

In short, the developers who are rebuilding the “new” Grove Parc apartments also want to “assign project-based subsidy to 50% of large (2 bedroom & 3 bedroom) units in multi-family courtway apartment buildings that are clustered on 3 corners along 62nd Street.”

So its not enough to rebuild on the footprint of a crime ridden and notorious public housing failure, but the folks at Preservation of Affordable Housing seek to extend its borders.

Brilliant.  A red letter day for Woodlawn.

In case you may have missed it in the news, Woodlawn—West Woodlawn in specifically—has erupted into an urban killing field.

I have no idea how my neighbors to the west are even going about their daily lives.

A recent Chicago Tribune article cited the fear and near hopelessness some of the residents experience in dealing with crime.

“Standing in front, Officer Rafael Yanez advised the residents to report drug-infested houses to police and to use the courts to force property owners and landlords to clean up their buildings. The residents’ eyes glazed over, and some sat with their arms folded.

Finally one woman in the audience spoke up.

“These thugs have come and taken over,” said the woman, who like many of her neighbors would not give her name later for fear of retribution. “We need something done now. We have heard them say they are going to war.”

“What about our safety on the block?” asked an elderly woman, her voice cracking as she fought back tears. “I am afraid to even crack open my window. I am always scared.”

When Yanez told the residents they need to call the police more aggressively, there was a sigh in the crowd. He told the residents that they need to give more specific descriptions of the criminals they call about.

“I am too scared to even look at them too long,” one woman said. “I don’t know what they will do. I’m so scared, I don’t even have a description to give. You don’t understand — our lives are in jeopardy.”

Public housing and private landlords that accept vouchers haven’t had a good track record of managing these programs in the past; why would any of that change by concentrating more poverty in an already struggling neighborhood?

It’s sheer lunacy.

Hence the petition to declare a moratorium on new project & tenant based (HCV) units in Woodlawn.

I signed the petition and I urge my friends and neighbors in Woodlawn to do the same.

It’s time we took our neighborhood back from people who don’t live here and have no vested interest in our well being.


Leave a comment
  • There are two inherent problems here:

    (1) Woodlawn has pretty much ever been such since the late 1960s, including the Blackstone Rangers and landlords burning down their buildings with people still in them. The only difference is that there is a larger number of vacant lots, and Brazier got a few houses built on 63rd.

    (2) Daley and crew did an adequate job of demolishing the high rise public housing, but just displaced the gangs to basically between 63rd and 159th (I'm including Blue Island, Dolton, and Harvey).

    Unless there is some way to cure these two inherent problems (and I don't have one), petitioning HUD not to subsidize some housing isn't going to cure much.

  • In reply to jack:

    You have to start somewhere. Clearly the current policy *ISN'T* working.

  • In reply to Woodlawn Wonder:

    That, though, hits me as about the same reasoning as Randy Michaels saying "People don't listen to WGN Radio, so let's bring in Greg Jarrett and Jim Lasky and see if that sticks to the wall." And when it didn't, doing the same at News 101.

    I said I don't have the answers, but apparently someone has done something to make most of the south side economically uninviting to investors. This might be a stop gap to keep it even more economically uninviting, and the economy now is particularly bad, but you and apparently no one else has figured out how to get someone to build and buy a $250K house, or build a supermarket any closer than Treasure Island on 55th or the Jewel or Sav a Lot on 75th (Google Maps indicates an Aldi near Marquette and Cottage Grove, so I guess Woodlawn isn't a complete food desert).

    That's the real somewhere to start.

  • In reply to Woodlawn Wonder:

    I meant "a stop gap to keep it from becoming even more economically uninviting."

Leave a comment