It’s easy to feel like these days, the government whether it be federal, state or local has everything except for our best intentions in mind. Rampant gentrification, blood-letting taxes, police-involved shootings with no convictions: it’s been a contentious relationship as of late for City Hall and the city’s residents. This week, at least, the average citizen often forgotten in the Emanuel Plan, got a rare helping hand as the city announced plans to spend $2 million buying and renovating vacant south and west side homes.
The move comes amidst a rising housing stock that centers on those operating in a lofty price point, some of which we documented briefly in a recent piece. The potential buyback program which is slated for Garfield Park, Humboldt Park and Englewood and is supposed to hire young Chicagoans for the work, is a departure from recent housing moves by the city and mayor. While significant developments have sprung up throughout the increasingly dense north side and instantly chic West Loop, the rest of the city frequented most often by permanent citizens outside of the 1%. The announcement also addresses another plight on the city: the destruction of historic buildings. By offering to buy back vacant homes and renovate them rather than selling the land to developers to put up soulless, uniform, cinderblock-foundation homes it will allow the neighborhoods to retain their unique aesthetics, something that has been lost in translation in places like the new Roosevelt Square which we recently looked at in our first installment of ‘Cranes In The Sky’.
While it’s a positive move by an administration that has done little other than lip service to the south and west sides of the city, it’s also a drop in the bucket when compared to the amount of money being spread around neighborhoods like Logan Square, Wicker Park, West Loop and downtown. Along with money from grants and other programs, the total comes out to nearly $6 million. Looking at the price tags for developments like the new North Branch River Development or Riverline to the south, the amount is strikingly low.
While more investment would always be appreciated in the city’s more forgotten sides, the program is slated to create around 200 jobs that will be available to those near the sites first.
According to DNAInfo, “The city’s contribution to the program would come from the funds left unclaimed by the city’s property tax rebate effort in 2016.”
“By bringing together community, non-profit and corporate partners for important programs like this we can generate a powerful economic impact that makes a difference for years to come,” Emanuel said in a statement.