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UIC News Tips
University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456, www.uic.edu/depts/paff

December 7, 2001 Contact: Anne Dybek, UIC (312) 996-8279; adybek@uic.edu
  Joy Aruguete, Bickerdike Development Corp. (773) 278-5669


A new study shows that many residents of the West Town community, which includes such areas on Chicago's Near Northwest Side as Wicker Park, Bucktown, Ukrainian Village and Humboldt Park, credit diversity with making their neighborhood an attractive place to live, even though they are becoming increasingly polarized over attempts to preserve their neighborhood's income and ethnic mix.

Titled "Gentrification in West Town: Contested Ground," the study was conducted by a partnership of the University of Illinois at Chicago's Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement and the Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, a nonprofit organization engaged in the redevelopment of Chicago's Near Northwest Side for 34 years.

"I think this report is unique in its contribution to the gentrification literature," said Pat Wright, associate director of UIC's Voorhees Center. "This is the most comprehensive examination of this area to date, and it combines an in-depth case study with empirical research and considers that information in the context of a historic and qualitative analysis of events."

Spanning four decades, the study traces how patterns in real estate investment, population change and public policy converged to change West Town's profile.

"The study revealed some interesting findings," said John Betancur, associate professor of planning and urban development at UIC and an author of the study. "We found a recurrent pattern of ethnic tension between existing residents and the successive waves of new arrivals. This pattern continues today with tensions between the area's Latino population and their white, affluent neighbors."

Joy Aruguete, executive director of Bickerdike, said that tension is made worse by the reality of displacement of Latinos and by the perception that existing "affordable" housing has a negative impact on neighborhoods. In fact, the study argues that fears of negative impacts from subsidized housing, though common, are largely unfounded.

Key findings include:

West Town property prices have soared over the past decade. Between 1990 and 2000 the median home price doubled to $278,000. These rising costs have had a measurable impact on the racial and income profile of the neighborhood. West Town's Latino population dropped from 59 percent to 47 percent of the area's total population, while households that are white, affluent and well educated increasingly dominated census tracts.
Rising housing costs are expected to continue to displace disproportionate numbers of African American and Latino households unless strategies are implemented to create and preserve affordable housing to balance upscale development.
Long-term affordable rental housing comprises only 7 percent of the area's housing stock. Most of this housing has been developed by community-based developers like Bickerdike, which face growing opposition from property associations and real estate interests.

In order to preserve West Town's ethnic and income diversity, the study advises that 20 percent of the community's housing stock be made affordable by creating 2,000 additional affordable housing units and preserving the community's existing stock of government subsidized housing. The study also recommends:

Adopting an inclusionary zoning requirement that requires developers to include a certain percentage of affordable units in each new residential project.
Opening zoning and public finance decisions to greater public review to minimize the discretionary role of individual aldermen and politically connected interest groups.
Creating more resources for new affordable housing development. A National Housing Trust Fund currently under consideration by Congress would restore the federal commitment to new affordable housing production to levels approaching those of the late 1970s.

The Chicago Community Trust, Chicago Rehab Network and the UIC Great Cities Seed Fund funded the study. The entire report can be downloaded at http://www.uic.edu/cuppa/voorheesctr.

The Voorhees Center is part of UIC's Great Cities commitment. Through Great Cities, UIC engages with civic, community, corporate and government partners to discover solutions to challenges facing cities, improve the quality of life in urban environments, and share new knowledge on urban issues with the Chicago metropolitan area and cities around the world.

- UIC -


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