Voters in Bronzeville overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that would set aside a portion of vacant lots in the community for middle-income housing.
The referendum, which passed with 87.85 percent of the vote, urges the mayor and the 2016 Chicago Olympic Committee to set aside 26 percent of the 1,800 vacant lots in the neighborhood for middle-income homeownership.
Valencia Hardy, an organizer with Housing Bronzeville, the group that sponsored the referendum, says the vote shows that the community is really concerned about the future.
“We hope now the mayor and the Olympic committee can sit down with us,” says Hardy. “At least give us the respect of talking to us, and finally hear what we have to say.”
Housing Bronzeville sponsored the ordinance because they fear the Olympics will spawn development that will eventually push out median income residents. The measure was on the ballot in parts of Wards 2, 3, 4, and 20.
Hardy says she talks to many people in the community who are concerned about the new development and high home prices, but don’t think they can do anything to stop it. She says she is proud of her community has stepped up and and made their voice heard.
“This is not Beijing. We don’t have to put up with that,” Hardy says.
The referendum also recommends that officials use the city median income, rather than the area median income, to calculate home values. The difference between the two figures is about $24,000, according to Hardy, because area median income takes into account the six counties surrounding Chicago. Hardy doesn’t think the affluent suburbs shouldn’t determine home values in Bronzeville, and the difference between the two numbers is a considerable gap for working families in the neighborhood.
Although aldermen in the Bronzeville area do not seem to support the referendum, the group is not deterred.
“The aldermen are only one level of decision making in this community. We’ve got to take this mandate and make our voice be heard by the mayor and the Olympic Committee,” says Bob Gannett, organizer with Housing Bronzeville.
The group had a similar fight with city officials four years ago. In 2004, they sponsored a referendum calling for a tax increase to create a Housing Trust Fund to finance affordable homes in the community. Although the measure passed with 88 percent of the vote, it never became law due to lack of support from local Aldermen.
Housing Bronzeville is still trying to make 2004’s Housing Trust Fund stick, but they sponsored this referendum to keep the issue of affordable housing in front of the community and its elected officials.
Hardy says she’s going to continue fighting to keep Bronzeville affordable.
“Don’t price us out, tax us out, tear down our historic landmarks. I’m not going anywhere,” she says.
Bronzeville voters discuss the referendum