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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Organizers Protest Near Lightfoot’s Home, Demanding More South Side Housing Protections As Obama Center Is Built

South Siders have pushed city leaders to act faster to safeguard affordable housing near the massive project in Jackson Park. "We cannot wait on IOUs ... for more affordable housing to come later."

Protesters hold a banner reading "Stop Displacement of Black Families" while standing in the intersection of Wrightwood and Kimball avenues during a demonstration Saturday for more housing protections on the South Side.
Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
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LOGAN SQUARE — Dozens of South Side housing activists gathered near Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s home Saturday, pushing the mayor to take more actions to protect against displacement ahead of the Obama Presidential Center’s opening in Jackson Park.

More than 75 people shut down the intersection of Wrightwood and Kimball avenues in Logan Square for more than an hour Saturday.

Holding signs with slogans including “Stop displacement of Black families” and “Woodlawn called dibs on the city lots,” attendees repeated long-standing demands for the mayor and city officials to prevent rising homeownership and rental costs in South Shore and Woodlawn.

South Side activists with the Obama CBA Coalition have called for an expansive community benefits agreement since 2016.

The city has approved a series of housing protections for Woodlawn and has promised financial support for one South Shore condo building, but activists said more must be done to limit gentrification in neighborhoods near the Obama Center site.

“I have decided that South Shore is my home,” said Chinella Miller, an organizer with the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization. “I want to be here, but I need help.”

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Protesters hold up signs reading “Woodlawn called dibs on the city lots” as cars turn around from the blocked intersection of Wrightwood and Kimball avenues Saturday afternoon.

The city’s housing department introduced a $5 million condo and co-op preservation fund for South Shore residents in March. The fund will provide grants for homeowners to repair their units and a mix of loan and grant funds to homeowner associations for building maintenance.

One building has been announced as part of the program: 6931-39 S. Crandon Ave., which is home to 44 units.

An ordinance approving the loan and grant has been delayed for a couple months. It was expected to be introduced in April, city officials said when they announced the pilot program.

The legislation is now expected to be introduced this summer, housing department spokesperson Eugenia Orr said.

Rep. Robin Kelly announced last month she requested $2 million in federal earmarks for the South Shore pilot program.

The program was initially set to be funded by the Troubled Buildings Initiative and the nonprofit Chicago Community Loan Fund. The federal funding would allow the program to be expanded to other buildings, Orr said.

“Many Chicago homeowners suffer from deferred maintenance of their homes and unequal access to credit,” Orr said. “We have many programs to assist building owners with resources and always welcome additional help from partners at the Federal and state levels.”

But $2 million is hardly a sustainable amount to expand a neighborhood-wide program, South Shore condo owner Linda Jennings said. The maintenance needed at her building near 67th Street and Crandon Avenue alone would blow through Kelly’s request, Jennings said.

Tuckpointing, fire safety upgrades and other work would cost $2.2-$2.5 million to complete at the building, Jennings said. Officials must secure more funding for housing programs or face the consequences come election season, she said.

“If we can’t negotiate what we need in our community … that power structure needs to be removed,” Jennings said.

Lightfoot, who lives down the block from the protest site, did not appear Saturday. Spokespeople for Lightfoot’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

At least 15 police officers barricaded and guarded both sides of the mayor’s block, while other officers were posted in unmarked cars around the neighborhood, which is typical during protests near Lightfoot’s home.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Police officers, who closed off Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s home block ahead of Saturday’s protest, look on as demonstrators form a circle at the intersection of Wrightwood and Kimball avenues.

Protestors on Saturday also reiterated their demands for the city to set aside all available high-density lots on 63rd Street east of Cottage Grove for affordable housing.

Six buildings are set to be developed on up to 20 vacant, city-owned properties along 63rd Street between Ingleside and University avenues. The plan would create 95-105 apartments affordable to residents making less than 50 percent of the area median income.

Officials will seek proposals for the 63rd Street sites starting this summer, Orr said. The projects likely won’t be finished for eight to 10 years, city officials said in March.

The projects would mark the first phase of a requirement to boost Woodlawn’s affordable housing stock by redeveloping 52 city-owned lots.

Housing activists have voiced concerns with the city’s timeline, saying they could be forced out of the area long before that housing is complete. Construction on the Obama Center began in August and is expected to wrap in 2025.

“We cannot wait on IOUs or promissory notes for more affordable housing to come later,” Woodlawn renter Marilyn Harper said Saturday.

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