The Crusader Newspaper Group

Black neighborhoods 100 years later

By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader

Thousands of affordable housing units were promised, but never built. Robert Taylor and Cabrini Green projects are gone. So are hot Black neighborhoods that enticed well-educated buyers with money. Englewood residents are drowning in poverty and just 13 mortgages went to people who wanted to buy a house in Riverdale in 2013. And homes that were worth nearly $400,000 in Fuller Park are now worth just above $100,000.

It’s a reality that’s documented in a new and extensive, 101 page report from the Chicago Urban League. Titled, The impact of Chicago’s Racial Residential Segregation on Residential, Housing and Transportation, the report examines 19 of Chicago’s 77 community neighborhoods. The neighborhoods that were examined have a population where over 50 percent of its residents are Black.

“Our findings indicate that there are 19 distinct communities in Chicago that have little or no change in residential segregation over the past decades, making them more vulnerable to socioeconomic burdens than other neighborhoods in Chicago,” said Stephanie Bechteler, Research and Evaluation Director at the Chicago Urban League and author of the study. “While some reports have found that people would prefer to live in more racially diverse neighborhoods, our study clearly shows that residential segregation, and the resulting impacts, remains inflexibly high in Chicago because of intentional choice over time.”

There was a time during the Great Migration when the South Side was a place where the Blacks lived the American dream with nice homes in neighborhoods that included many Black-owned stores and businesses. Because of restrictive housing covenants and segregation, Blacks made the best of their neighborhoods, building nice homes and creating plenty of Black-owned stores and businesses.

Black neighborhoods ironically deteriorated after segregated housing laws were outlawed, allowing middle-class Blacks the opportunity to relocate and integrate white neighborhoods.

When the housing market crisis sparked the Great Recession in 2008, Black neighborhoods that were overcoming challenges on the South and West sides were among the hardest hit. Today, Blacks in neighborhoods from Austin to Riverdale are living in poverty and spending most of their mortgage in areas where property values are much less than what they were worth before the economic crisis.

And as Chicago continues on a rebound, Blacks still struggle to find a place to stay because of the dwindling number of affordable housing units that are available.

The Urban League report is the first of three studies that the Urban League will release in the coming months on the heels of the 100th Anniversary of the Great Migration. It was a time when Chicago’s Black population exploded after as many as one million Blacks left the South’s racist climate for a better future in the North.

Wednesday’s housing report analyzed neighborhoods according to their foreclosures, distressed properties, home sales, available apartment units, median incomes, educational levels and property values. The report also documents the residents’ commute to work and the overall number of affordable housing units and government-subsidiz-

ed housing developments. The study compared the data from 2005 to 2013 or before and after the Great Recession.

From dwindling incomes to vacant properties, the report paints a grim picture of Chicago’s Black neighborhoods, where the quality of life has suffered from years of economic depression that many experts believed were caused by racists lending policies, including reverse redlining, a common practice today where banks deny loans to people seeking a mortgage or business loan in a depressed area.

Experts say these practices have had a devastating effect on the Black neighborhoods. Many residents now live in poverty but according to the Urban League study, the Riverdale neighborhood has more poor residents than any of the 18 communities that were examined. The report said in 2013, 67 of its 3554 residents lived below the federal poverty level, which is $24,300 for a family of 4.

All of the neighborhoods had lower incomes than the average household median income in Chicago, which was $47,200 in 2013, according to the report.

That same year, over 50 percent of residents living in Englewood, which had 21,227 residents in 2013. That year, Oakland had 1,487 residents and Washington Park had 8,188.

On the West Side, 31 percent of Austin’s 93,357 residents lived in poverty in 2013, according to the report.

Oakland also had the highest unemployment rate in 2013 with 71 percent of its residents out of work.

As far as home loans, banks are granting far less mortgages to all the neighborhoods than ever before. Austin received 3,298 mortgages in 2013, more than any other neighborhood in the study. Auburn Gresham residents were second with 1,771 mortgages and Riverdale was last with just 13 mortgages granted. Burnside, where 99.4 of its 735 residents were Black in 2013, saw 87 mortgages granted to people who wanted to buy a home.

Those numbers are much lower when compared to the number of mortgages approved before the economic recession. According to the Urban League report, Austin received 18,438 mortgages that were approved from 2005 to 2007. During that same period, Auburn Gresham received 8,552 and Riverdale received 283.

The report also said the total number of home sales in all neighborhoods were half than those during pre-recession levels. In Woodlawn from 2012 to 2014, 808 properties were sold compared to 1,905 that were sold between 2012 and 2014.

On median home sale prices, the property value on all of the homes have dramatically decline since 2005. Homes in Fuller Park and Oakland that were closed to $350,000 were worth $104,408 and $116,441 respectively, according to the report.

As far as foreclosures, Austin had 2,873 of them between 2008 and 2010. The South Shore neighborhood had 1,384. Woodlawn and the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhoods both had 1,089 foreclosures during the same time period.

The majority of renters in nearly all the Black neighborhoods were spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent. And since 1998, 63 percent of 18,650 Chicago Housing Units were demolished. Some 6,938 new units were promised but only 2,588 were actually built, according to the report.


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