Update: Amazingly, within just a few hours of my posting this, 47th ward alderman Ameya Pawar tweeted this:
See same comments re renters on NS. We need all types of housing, inc rental. And the alderman in 47 is a reenter. https://t.co/rLAKv78K4R
— Alderman Ameya Pawar (@Alderman_Pawar) July 8, 2015
This part of a recent community meeting about an apartment development in the West Loop, as reported by DNAinfo, was pretty standard:
On Tuesday night, resident Mike Samson, who has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years, said that his neighbors are very concerned about the “stampede” of rental buildings being developed in the neighborhood. “Rental buildings tend to attract people who come and go quite quickly. The turnover is rapid. They don’t help to stabilize the neighborhood,” Samson said. “They don’t contribute in the long term to the neighborhood. Owners contribute in the long term to the neighborhood.”
Asking for new buildings to be owner-occupied, rather than rental, is one of the most popular ways for people to use the power of government to manipulate who their neighbors will be. On average, owners will be people with better-paying and more stable jobs, and greater wealth, than renters. Insisting on owner-occupied housing, then, is a way of asking for a richer, more income-segregated neighborhood. And in a city like Chicago – in pretty much any American city, actually – asking for a richer, more income-segregated neighborhood almost always means asking for a whiter, more racially-segregated neighborhood by proxy. Most of the time, aldermen accede to these demands as if they were perfectly reasonable. But Walter Burnett – whose 27th ward this project falls in – well, bless him:
After fielding complaints about new rental developments in the West Loop for months, one alderman has a new word to describe neighbors’ opposition to renters: “discrimination.” …
“It’s going to have to be a mixed neighborhood,” [said Burnett.] “Don’t no one group own no neighborhood in the City of Chicago. This is America.”
In addition to slapping down the idea that bashing renters – who make up 55% of all Chicagoans, by the way – is a normal, non-discriminatory thing to do, Burnett also announced that new developments would have to meet the city’s inclusionary zoning ordinance by building their affordable units on site, rather than paying into a fund to build them somewhere else – usually somewhere poorer.
But, unsurprisingly, the people who lobbied for pro-segregation policies believe that having to listen to criticism of those pro-segregation policies makes them victims, rather than, say, the people who are being segregated out of safe, amenity-rich neighborhoods. In that, they are following proudly in the tradition of earlier American segregationists.
A 15-year resident who lives near Mary Bartelme Park said that neighbors aren’t discriminating against renters. They just want to protect what they’ve built, she said. “I think we want to create our home and keep it that way and I really resent everyone calling us bigots because we want owners [in the neighborhood],” the woman said.
To which I would say that life is full of choices, and one of them is that you can either ask the government to block lower-income people from living in your neighborhood, or you can enjoy not being considered a bigot. But you cannot always, thankfully, do both. I’m just hoping Chicago’s other aldermen are paying attention to Walter Burnett.