As he marched to the first Humboldt Park Housing Summit Saturday morning, 30-year resident Jimmy Torres explained that rising housing costs are forcing him to move out of his community.
"I was looking to buy a house here, but prices have gone crazy," said Torres, a renter. "A lot of residents here are poor and cannot afford it anymore. I am thinking of moving south."
Torres joined about 300 other Humboldt Park residents in the march to the Humboldt Park Field House. With many waving Puerto Rican flags, a multiethnic crowd of protesters condemned rising rents and property taxes.
"Humboldt Park no se vende!" chanted the crowd among salsa drumbeats and shaking maracas. "Humboldt Park is not for sale!"
The housing summit was held to educate residents on growing gentrification in Humboldt Park and to provide distressed residents with housing resources, said Michael Rodriguez MuÃ±iz, a member of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center's Participatory Democracy Project. The Project joined the Humboldt Park Empowerment Partnership's Housing Action Team and the Near Northwest Neighborhood Network to host the event.
"There is a large sentiment that people are being squeezed out of their homes," said Rodriguez MuÃ±iz. "There are social costs to gentrification; displaced people lose their social ties, the support of their neighbors, and their cultural identities."
The influx of developers looking to buy cheap real estate to resell at high prices and the building of high-priced condominiums have been the main concerns, Rodriguez MuÃ±iz said. But residents have also faced rental discrimination and harassment from city inspectors, he said.
"Residents get slapped with repeated building violations and aren't given the legally allowed time to address these complaints," said Matthew Rodriguez, also a member of the Democracy Project.
The summit featured several "breakout" sessions for residents to learn more about dealing with housing issues, including discriminatory advertising, predatory lenders, and the role of youth in resisting housing displacement.
The event also focused on the contributions of the Puerto Rican and larger Humboldt Park community to organize and build institutions for people of color, like the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Alternative High School and CafÃ© Teatro Batey Urbano, a youth center.
"Progress is not only technological or economic, but has to be measured by creativity and cultural production," said Puerto Rican Cultural Center Executive Director JosÃ© E. Lopez, a speaker at the summit. "The city has got to engage people of all colors."