Academic journal article The Journal of Race & Policy

Are Low-Income African American Households Accessing Redeveloped Neighborhoods? A Case Study of Four Chicago Neighborhoods

Academic journal article The Journal of Race & Policy

Are Low-Income African American Households Accessing Redeveloped Neighborhoods? A Case Study of Four Chicago Neighborhoods

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The escalation of urban gentrification activity spurred by federal housing policy is a strong contributor to the diminishing supply of affordable rental housing units. The influx of middle-income persons into changing neighborhoods typically results in an increase of property values that indirectly raises rents for longstanding low-income residents. Consequently, residents are forced to leave their neighborhoods in order to locate affordable housing elsewhere (Levy, Comey, and Padilla, 2006). In searching for affordable housing, the issue of access to housing opportunities becomes a necessary consideration. Furthermore, persistent racial and cultural barriers that created segregated landscapes, as in Chicago, confounds relocation outcomes when particular neighborhoods are difficult to penetrate by the minority low-income market. Thus, federal and state housing initiatives that were developed in an attempt to reverse negative trends of poverty concentration, disinvestment and economic decline associated with poor, segregated communities, may have a damaging effect on poor residents of color

Within this context, this article explores neighborhood change effects of specific housing initiatives, namely the federal HOPE VI program and the Chicago Housing Authority Plan for Transformation (pft), on four Chicago neighborhoods (Douglas, Near North Side, Near West Side and East Garfield Park). Analyses herein elucidate how these housing redevelopment programs are resulting in positive neighborhood change for some communities and their respective families but not others. Implications of policy outcomes are discussed within the context of its effect on longstanding community residents.

NEIGHBORHOOD CHANGE: A WORKING DEFINITION

To examine the outcomes of the hope vi and pft programs relative to Chicago's Douglas, Near North Side, Near West Side and East Garfield Park neighborhoods, a working definition of neighborhood change is warranted. Neighborhood change, within the context of gentrification, is understood to be the movement of middle class families into revitalized neighborhoods that were previously depressed, neglected and poor (Schaeffer and Smith, 1986; Wyly and Hammel, 1999). Communities with sought-after amenities such as access to transportation and entertainment venues are ripe for gentrification (Wyly and Hamel, 1999). Thus, proponents of gentrification emphasize its ability to "reverse [the] economic and social decline" (Schaeffer and Smith, 1986, pg. 349) plaguing inner city neighborhoods by attracting families with financial resources that can be attracted by highlighting community amenities.

Contrary viewpoints argue that gentrification facilitates the displacement of long-term residents who weathered the storm of economic decline (Freeman, 2005; Lees and Dey, 2008; Levy and et al., 2006). For instance, scholars contend that an influx of middle-income persons into gentrifying neighborhoods increases property values, influencing an uptick in rental prices (Freeman, 2005; Levy and et ah, 2006). Accordingly, low-income residents are forced to leave their neighborhoods in order to locate affordable housing elsewhere (Levy and et ah, 2006). Thus, one challenge of gentrification is striking a balance between economic stability in historically neglected neighborhoods and housing affordability, particularly for low-income persons. Research has determined this to be a difficult balance to attain (Kennedy and Leonard, 2001).

Cities across the country are failing to achieve such a delicate balance (Bates, 2013; Paul, 2011), including Chicago. While it is proper to acknowledge Chicago's social and political leadership for taking action to improve severely neglected communities, it is also necessary to confront leadership when the results of such actions are likely to hurt people who have long suffered from its neglect. Investment in communities to produce neighborhood change must benefit the population who sustained years of financial loss. …

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