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Obama Library Already Displacing Residents

Tenants who live in the Jackson Park Terrace Apartments, across the street from the proposed Obama Center, are already facing a rent increase ranging from $100 a month to more than $250 a month.

"[Obama] heard that we would not be displaced but my rent is going up next week," said Cindy Lee, a Jackson Park Terrace tenant and longtime neighborhood resident. "I don't want to move now that the Obama Center is coming, but with this rent increase I may have no choice."

The building is owned by politically connected Leon Finney, who has put up "We Trust Obama" signs on the housing development.

Tenants and the CBA Coalition and allies are calling for a city ordinance to protect residents against displacement before the Obama Center plans are approved. The Plan Commission is expected to approve the Obama Center at next month's Plan Commission meeting.

The Obama Library Community Benefits Coalition will join with tenants facing rent increases in a protest Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at 6357 South Cottage Grove.

Following the protest, tenants and allies will take their demands to Ald. Leslie Hairston's 5th Ward meeting at 6 p.m. at 6940 South Merrill Avenue. Tenants and the Community Benefit Coalition are demanding that Alds. Willie Cochran and Hairston and Mayor Rahm Emanuel pass a Community Benefits Agreement to protect longtime residents from being pushed out.

The Lift the Ban Coalition, which in the elections last week won overwhelming support for rent control, will also join the CBA Coalition to demand a CBA ordinance and rent control legislation to protect longtime residents like those at Jackson Park Terrace.

Since 2014, community groups, now numbering two dozen, have been organizing to stop the displacement of longtime African-American residents from the neighborhood surrounding the Obama Library. Since President Obama has said that he will not sign a private Community Benefits Agreement, organizers have been calling for a Community Benefit Ordinance that would benefit all residents and apply to the Obama Center, University of Chicago and other developments in the surrounding area.

Beyond the rent increase at Jackson Park Terrace, the Obama Library CBA Coalition points out that the threat of displacement is neighborhood-wide. A Redfin study found that property values in Woodlawn in 2017 went up by 23 percent. A Chicago Rehab Network study found that 62 percent of Woodlawn residents already pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent, making them rent burdened and at risk of displacement.

The Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul found that 14,000 more units of low-income affordable housing would need to be built to meet the demand in the area surrounding the Obama Center.

Community Benefit Ordinance activists want an ordinance that would freeze property taxes for longtime residents in the area, set aside 30 percent of new housing construction for affordable housing, and require other developers like the University of Chicago to invest in job training and local hiring. The proposed Ordinance provisions are published on their website:

The Obama Library CBA Coalition is a group of diverse community organizations. Coalition members are: Kenwood Oakland Community Organization; the Poor People's Campaign; Southside Together Organizing for Power; the Black Youth Project 100; Bronzeville Regional Collective; UChicago for a CBA; and the Westside Health Authority.

Our ally members include: Alliance of the South East; Brighton Park Neighborhood Council; Chicago Jobs Council; Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights; Chicago Rehab Network; Chicago Teachers Union; Chicago Women in Trade; Friends of the Parks; Indivisible Southside; Metropolitan Tenants Organization; Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois/Indiana; Standing Up for Racial Justice; Reparations at UChicago; Voorhees Center for Neighborhood Improvement; the Wolfpack; and Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors.



* Why No Community Benefits Agreement For The Obama Library?

* Rhymefest Leads Obama Library CBA Effort.

* Jackson Park Community Football Team Holds What They Fear Will Be Their Final Homecoming Game On Field Where Obama Library Set To Be Built.

* "Woodlawn resident and community organizer Haroon Garel notes that 'the Obama Foundation has been very responsive when concerns were raised by wealthier white neighbors, such as condo associations and preservationists, in agreeing to make millions of dollars of infrastructure changes by moving the parking lot underground. However, when low-income working Black families demand a Community Benefits Agreement and guarantees against displacement we are ignored.'"

* "President Change needs a reported $175 million in taxpayer-funded roadwork for his 'library' but refuses to sign a Community Benefits Agreement (while chuckling that rents will go up 'a little' around Jackson Park but dislocated residents are out of luck because, oh well!)."


Comments welcome.


Posted on March 27, 2018

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