A community-driven approach to preventing displacement - Metropolitan Planning Council

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A community-driven approach to preventing displacement

Through the Preserving Affordability Together pilot, East Garfield Park residents produced a community vision and strategies for leaders to preserve affordability and prevent displacement

On a sunny Tuesday evening in early March, over 100 Chicago residents, activists and nonprofit leaders gathered at the Garfield Park Conservatory to celebrate the unveiling of “Preserving Affordability Together: A Blueprint for Community Action,” the culmination of a nearly year-long community planning process in East Garfield Park.  

A New Community Planning Pilot Process

In May of 2019, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University (IHS) partnered with the Garfield Park Community Council to launch  Preserving Affordability Together—a pilot program to preserve affordability in East Garfield Park. Through over 40 stakeholder interviews, focus groups, working group meetings, a community survey, and two large community meetings, we worked with community leaders to develop an action plan to ensure that new development benefits residents and prevents displacement. The result: “Preserving Affordability Together: A Blueprint for Community Action,” which includes a community vision and mission for equitable development, as well as seven broad goals with potential strategies.   

While this effort was initiated well before the current global pandemic became a reality, the importance of promoting housing stability and affordability is more important than ever. The key strategies we co-created with residents to preserve affordability and prevent displacement in East Garfield Park remain just as important in the wake of an unprecedented health and economic crisis – both within the neighborhood but also across the city, region, and state.

A Community Vision for Housing Affordability and Stability

East Garfield Park has a rich history of residents, businesses and civic institutions with strong roots in the community, many that have been in the community for generations. However, rising housing prices and a renewed interest in the area by developers puts these legacy residents and institutions at risk of being priced out of their community. While many residents welcome new investments and amenities, they want to ensure that existing residents also benefit from these investments. Too often when developing plans, community voices are neglected. The Preserving Affordability Together pilot looks to counter this dynamic by centering resident’s voices through the community-driven planning process.

“Let’s insist and assure that these plans are locally driven and locally implemented,” said Stephanie Nobile, long-time resident and D20 Army member. “So far, this has not been the case. In order for this community to defy national trends of gentrification, we must work together for an Affordability and Stability plan”.

This sentiment echoes what we heard from residents throughout the PAT process: to resist displacement, power must be anchored in the community. Residents must both drive and benefit from development decisions. The PAT process and Blueprint serve as an initial avenue and starting point to build community power by outlining shared community goals and strategies to achieve them, including the establishment of a new community coalition.

Later in the program, Vauna Hernandez, President and CEO of local nonprofit Bethel New Life, summarized five priority strategies. These strategies were identified by residents out of a larger list as key priorities for the next two to three years. They include:

  • Build a strong independent community coalition to build power and advance housing affordability strategies.
  • Develop a community benefits strategy that requires new large developments to provide benefits to local and legacy community members.
  • Support legacy homeowners in preserving existing housing that is affordable, including property tax assistance and support for home repairs.
  • Establish Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives to create ownership opportunities for low-income residents.
  • Create a Community-Driven Land Trust to advance community ownership and create permanent housing affordability.

Across all the strategies, the Blueprint places an emphasis on benefiting long-time, legacy residents and those who are most at-risk for displacement. Further details on the above strategies, including examples of how they have been implemented in other neighborhoods and cities, can be found in the Blueprint. 

A Call to Action

In order to advance these strategies, action will be needed from a broad set of partners – from community members to government actors to the private and non-profit sectors. While the production of this report is the culmination of a multi-month-long process, it also represents the beginning of coordinating action in East Garfield Park – not the end. Ultimately, the Blueprint is a call to action for anyone interested in preserving affordability to get involved, including government, private and nonprofit partners.

With the Blueprint in place, it is now time to put these strategies into play. The first community  coalition meeting was on April 7th and meetings will continue into the year. If you are interested in joining the coalition, please contact Juan Sebastian Arias at jsarias@metroplanning.org to get connected to community leaders

Thank you to all involved in the process throughout the past year. Your time, insights, and commitment have been essential in the creation of the Blueprint and ultimately, to preserving affordability in East Garfield Park.

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