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Chicago Tries To Jumpstart Housing For Black Community And Promote Equity

June 29, 2021 by Daniel Mollenkamp
Chicago. (Photo via Pixabay)

CHICAGO – The city unveiled a plan this week to build 250 new homes in North Lawndale, an area on the west side of Chicago. 

The city has committed to sell 250 city-owned lots for $1 each, which the mayor’s office has said will reduce construction costs and will keep the home prices reasonable. The city has also designated $5.3 million to prepare the lots. 

Officials hope that the new single-family homes will turn city-owned vacancies into stability and opportunity for residents of the community, who they say have suffered from the legacy of historical injustice in housing opportunities.

The program, “Reclaiming Communities,” was announced by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Housing on Monday. 

Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and Lawndale Christian Development Corporation are involved in the project, as is United Power for Action and Justice, a nonpartisan community organization with a large religious membership.

A leader from UPAJ, Shangwé Parker, has said that the plan is to offer the homes at $220,000, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“In September 2019, the mayor met with 1,251 people from United Power here in North Lawndale and committed to work with us on this visionary approach, and we want to recognize that she has kept her word,” Richard Townsell, executive director of the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, said in a prepared statement.

“We are poised and ready to generate affordable homeownership at a scale and on a timetable that is meaningful for working families and individuals who want to live and work in safe, vibrant communities in Chicago,” Townsell said.

The announcement was part of the mayor’s investment initiative, INVEST South/West, which has “leveraged” $750 million in funding for equity-based commercial development, according to the mayor’s office.

At the press conference on Monday, Lightfoot pointed out that 18% of the land in North Lawndale is vacant, and that the city owns 950 parcels of land there.

Homeownership is vital for upward mobility and intergenerational wealth, the mayor commented at the press event. The mayor connected the low rates of homeownership in the Black community to historically racist policies.

The mayor’s office believes that the initiative will help to spur homeownership in the Black community and to fight off community “divestment and decline.”

Chicago Department of Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara also put the blame for some of the inequality in the region on a lack of lending and investment, adding that, “This exciting partnership is a step toward repairing the intergenerational harm of private and government wealth extraction from Black Chicagoans.”

“For many Black and Brown folks, homeownership has become an elusive pipe dream due to decades of discriminatory practices such as predatory loans, redlining, segregation, and more,” Lightfoot said in a prepared statement.

“It is crucial that we address the modern-day manifestations of these practices by providing our residents with what they need to achieve homeownership—which has time and time again proven to be a key indicator of future financial stability and generational wealth. Through ‘Reclaiming Chicago,’ we will be able to create a new wave of Black and Brown homeowners and as a result, improve our communities from the inside out for years to come,” she said.

UPAJ has said that it wants to build 1,000 homes in the south and west sides of Chicago. The organization got $10 million from the Illinois General Assembly last May to give home-buying subsidies to prospective buyers, materials from the mayor’s office emphasized. They have also raised $27.55 million for Reclaiming Communities, including more than $12 million from JP Morgan Chase and several foundations.

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