Positively Speaking-Where Do You Live?
Driving through my neighborhood saddens me. When we decided to purchase our home here over twenty years ago, we did so because the neighborhood was mixed and the homes were well taken care of. My children grew up being able to go outside and play, and I didn’t have to worry about them getting shot or run over or stolen. Ten years in we began to see some changes in the neighborhood. Nothing major. Some of our older neighbors either died or moved away to live with loved ones and their homes were sold. One or two of them became rental properties, and we saw right away why so many areas protested renting. Renters did not have the same regard for the property as owners did and they often did not share the same sense of community because they were not planning on staying long. Well, not longer than it would take for them run down the value of your property with their carelessness. At fifteen years in, we thought about moving. We put our home on the market and started looking at other areas. To our surprise, the value of our home had dropped significantly, and we would face a loss. Not wanting to have to deal with the financial pressures of taking a loss, we decided to stay put.
We were just out on a Sunday drive, going to the local Starbucks to get a cup of coffee and chit chat about our week to come. I couldn’t help but notice how many boarded up houses there were not even a mile away. I counted them on the way back, and after fifty, I got sad. I know that the housing market suffered. I remember how foreclosures were changing the family structure forever. I think about the homeless people I see throughout the City of Chicago, and I think about some of the testimonies I heard from single mother’s trying to do it all who lost their homes.
I see the boarded up homes that have been empty for years. The banks never had any intention of fixing the homes up to resale or rent or anything of that sort. I almost feel like they bullied their way into our community and then punished the people who were able to continue to pay for their homes. Banks should be held accountable for their actions, and just like the people who live in the community that can be fined for not keeping up their properties, the banks need to be fined, and community leaders need to step up.
I am excited about the “Times Up” and “Me Too” movements and my support are ongoing. What I would like to see is a movement that will address the leaders and make them address the issue of these abandoned homes.
As a realtor, I worked in a lot of different communities, and I did not see this sort of carelessness going on in non-urban communities. I have watched and seen how gentrification worked. We called it “Jewtown” a name that came about in the 1920’s because it was an area where Jewish people culminated and cultivated, opening businesses. It was a staple of the community and a place that people of all cultural backgrounds enjoyed going. Slowly, shops started to close, and new ones did not take their place. University of Illinois Chicago Campus started purchasing land to expand their campus, and then-Mayor Richard Dailey was looking to expand the downtown area of the city. I watched as the streets that I had grown up visiting that were filled with storefront clothing, and shoe stores became condos and UIC owned buildings. Target purchased land and built a multilevel not too far from our beloved Jewtown. Wholefoods and Starbucks followed.
When I drive through Jewtown now it is nostalgic because of the smell of the Maxwell street polish stand that is still there. If you travel a little further West, Past Halsted street pass the college setting, and new condos you can start to count abandoned homes and the number is astronomical. It is shameful that we have such a huge homeless problem in the United States and homes that could be made into viable living spaces remain boarded up and useless.
I think that it is time that the people of the community became involved and forced our leaders to get involved and to do something about our communities. Businesses are leaving, and stores are boarded up for years. Food deserts have become the norm in our areas, but fast food locations like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Taco Bell thrive because they know that in many instances they are the only resources. There has to be healing that takes place amongst us, and it has to start somewhere. Why not with you? When election time rolls around politicians are out in masses knocking on doors and asking to put their posters in your window and signs in your yard. Tell them to put them where the abandoned houses stand so that people can see what is really going on in the neighborhood. Have your press conference on the deserted blocks showing that there is an opportunity for growth in the very area that you are asking to work. If you want my vote, maybe we can discuss that after you have taken some steps to do something about the community and the issues that we face as homeowners.
For me, the ghost town that I live in that once thrived with the sound of laughter as children played on the sidewalks has become a tormentor of sorts and a constant reminder of how much I long to get out and to move on. I would love to tell you that the community meetings that I have attended have warranted change and that the grocery store that has been closed for over a year and a half has a new tenant as promised by the mayor where I live, but that is just not the case. False promises and do nothing politics is all that I have gotten. I am not tired, or weary and I have not given up, I know that sometimes it takes a village.