The Dark Side of the (Housing) Force

A trend over the last 40 years is for young (predominantly white) artists, students and professionals to move into poorer urban communities of color in what has become known as “gentrification.” Property values increase, new capitol comes into the community, and crime rates often fall. Cities often encourage this shift because it represents development and increased revenue. However, as good as all this sounds, “gentrification” has a dark side. According to Teresa Cordova in her article “Community Intervention Efforts to Oppose Gentrification” (In Philip W. Nyden, Wim Wiewel, eds., Challenging Uneven Development: An Urban Agenda for the 1990s, (1991) New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 25-48.),

“gentrification is a creation of real estate agents, property developers, and banks who control the “who” and “where” of urban property shifts.”

In other words, those with power see a way to profit through a shift in the way urban property is reused. In addition, as property values increase, property taxes and rents rise, often making the community unaffordable for existing homeowners and tenants. Families are forced to find a more affordable community. It also promotes speculative land purchases as people look for the next “hot” neighborhood. Buy a cheap property, hold on to it and then flip it for a large profit. We are watching this this phenomena happening in Logan Square—especially along the Bloomingdale Trail. What was once an affordable community for immigrants and low-income families has now become the most recent “hot neighborhood” in Chicago.

This process of “re-urbanization” (and subsequent “sub-urbanization” and “ex-urbanization” of the poor) is happening across the country.  Millennials–many who grew up in suburbs and who are seeking community connections, walkable communities, and a vibrant night life–are being targeted by developers.  In Logan Square, a vast majority of new housing developments are studio and 1 bedroom units and are marketed to single people or young couples.  There is little room for families, and few of the units are truly “affordable.”

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