By Fathima Shaikh
Real estate is the foundation for the cities we live in, yet despite the importance real estate holds in each of our individual lives, not all communities or neighborhoods get the same benefits that others do. Some development can harm communities and prioritizes profit over residents. This process is often known as gentrification.
What is gentrification? Gentrification entails displacing original lower-income residents of a neighborhood due to increasing costs. Among Chicago's neighborhoods, "22% of lower-income neighborhoods in Chicago were at risk of gentrification in 2017"(urbandisplacement.org). Gentrification can have negative impacts on a community's history and the original residents within it. Humboldt Park, for example, used to be a primarily Puerto Rican community. Within recent years, investment towards the community increased and the Puerto Rican population decreased significantly. A staff member from The Community Builders, a nationwide development firm, says, "development projects are not a problem, but when it displaces the original residents, it becomes one”. According to Chicago ABC news, Sharon Payne at Southside Together Organizing For Power said "They're...building $750,000 homes over here next to homes...that are $25,000. (2021)" Displaced residents affected by gentrification lose out on improving education, access to fresh food, and other benefits invested communities experience. Not only does this harm Chicago's residents, but it harms Chicago's economy. Asiaha Butler from RAGE Englewood says that "forcing people of color out of communities often makes it difficult for them to gain employment opportunities."
There has been a movement to make more meaningful investments. Lori Lightfoot's Invest South/West initiative is one of them. In the coming years developments for Chicago's marginalized communities such as affordable housing in Logan Square, an entrepreneurial hub in Englewood, and more are expected.