Chicagoans march for affordable housing

CHICAGO – A thousand people, mostly from Chicago’s Westside, marched on City Hall July 29 for affordable housing. The crowd, chanting wildly and jumping vibrantly, denounced their mayor for continuing to let developers destroy their neighborhoods, forcing them out of their homes, all the while making great profits.

The Balanced Development Coalition, representing ten grassroots organizations including seniors, youths, immigrants and community groups, has proposed that all developers who build or convert modestly-priced housing into luxury housing be mandated to set aside 30 percent of their developments for affordable housing. However, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has blocked the measure, refusing to let it be debated in the City Council.

Protestors charged that during the past year Daley’s administration has made a systematic assault on the housing of mid- to lower-income residents of Chicago: the ongoing demolition of public housing, cuts in Section 8 housing subsidies, an increasingly permissive attitude encouraging developers to convert affordable housing into luxury housing.

A protester, Jane Adams, told the World, “Condos move in and we move out ... we can’t afford to stay.” Pastor Steven Stokes, of the Garfield Park community in the Westside said, “Chicago is not only for the rich but for everyone.” Citing Mayor Daley’s policies of moving mid-and lower-income families out of Chicago and into the suburbs, he said, “What is going on is immoral and politically unwise.”

Living in the suburbs presents a double threat to Chicago’s poor: lack of decent jobs and lack of adequate public transportation. Pastor Stokes told the crowd that even not-for-profit groups are being stonewalled from building and offering affordable housing in the city.

Chicago’s Westside has been hit particularly hard. This is why residents of western neighborhoods showed up in mass at the march, to tell Daley that they have had enough.

For over a year, Father Mike Shanahan, of the Albany Park neighborhood, told the crowd, numerous housing groups have tried to get a meeting with Daley to discuss the growing housing crisis and their City Council proposal to mandate affordable housing set-asides. However, when the crowd arrived, Jake McCrosky, a march organizer, said, the Mayor locked the doors to City Hall and then turned up his CD player to tune out the needs of the people.

Currently Chicago is glutted with luxury and high priced housing, even though the market for such housing is heading for a downturn. Meanwhile, since Daley’s election in 1989, affordable housing has been neglected, torn down and dismantled.

Young residents have especially been hit hard. Milane, age 7, said to the crowd, “We need affordable housing.” A 30-year resident shouting above the crowd told the World that seniors “have a hard time living as it is; we don’t need to be moving from our homes.”

Diana Linos of Albany Park said, “We have watched as our friends, neighborhoods, families have been packed out of their familiar surroundings,” as the crowd yelled to Daley, “You are for the greedy, what about the needy?”

The author can be reached at brandikishner@hotmail.com