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Impact of Gentrification on Chicago Communities Is Probed

CHICAGO, Jan. 6, 2006 Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Urban Research and Learning (CURL) and the City of Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations (CCHR) announced today the results of a year-long study that focused on the impact of gentrification on groups in Chicago’s West Town, Humboldt Park and Mid-South communities. The study, “The Differential Impact of Gentrification on Communities in Chicago,” commissioned by CCHR and conducted by CURL, examined many factors, including demographic patterns, experiences of different racial, ethnic and economic groups and perceptions of community leaders regarding the impact of the gentrification process on their communities and the people who live there.

Many Chicago communities currently experience gentrification as a result of a common cycle that cities throughout the U.S., Europe and other developed nations face on a daily basis-community reinvestment and displacement of low-income residents. As is the case everywhere, the impact of gentrification in any community is multifaceted, and Loyola’s study identified a number of themes that either increase inter-group tensions or facilitate positive inter-racial, inter-ethnic or inter-income group relations. Some of the key themes that emerged include:

* Displacement in Relation to Race, Ethnicity and Social Class — In this study, it is clear that social class does underlie many of the differences and tensions seen in Chicago communities. Conflicts of “values” cited by respondents are often closely related to income differences or the social class differences between “old” and “new” residents. These issues, which often relate to a lack of understanding, communication and contact, have contributed to hostility, tension and conflict in many Chicago neighborhoods.

* General Attitudes Toward Gentrification — There is not a dominant pro or con perspective on gentrification among the community leaders and residents interviewed for this study. Many noted that gentrification is having a primarily positive effect on their community. Residents enjoy seeing aesthetic improvements to homes and businesses opening up in the area. However, the uneasiness came when people had doubts about whether they could afford to stay in the community and benefit from the improvements.

* Different Models of Gentrification Exist — To the residents of Humboldt Park and West Town, gentrification is generally seen by Latinos as middle- and upper-income “white anglos” moving into neighborhoods. These Anglo “yuppies” are viewed as isolated, racist, intolerant and even hostile towards the Puerto Rican and Latino people and cultures. However, to the residents of Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Kenwood and Oakland, social class issues have arisen in low-income African-American neighborhoods that are experiencing gentrification by middle-class African-American newcomers.

“This study found that Chicago is experiencing the intersection of two major trends-our city’s population continues to grow more and more diverse each day, while at the same time, our community development efforts are bringing new residents to neighborhoods,” says Phil Nyden, director, Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Urban Research and Learning. “Both of these trends have the ability to bring positive contributions to the quality of life in this city, but to do that, it’s important that we build better communication and face-to-face contact among affected community residents.”

In addition to building better communication, CURL and CCHR have developed a host of recommendations and submitted them to the Chicago City Council in an attempt to ameliorate the negative effects of the gentrification and displacement cycle on these communities, including:

* Create new or improve existing mechanisms for community voice in neighborhood redevelopment and change

* Continue efforts that support the development of mixed-income, as well as racially- and ethnically-diverse communities, as they can provide an alternative to the negative effects of gentrification

“The issue of gentrification is a very sensitive one for many Chicagoans. Conflicting feelings among neighbors can create mistrust, resentment and community tensions that CCHR has been called upon on numerous occasions to help alleviate,” says Clarence Wood, chairman, Chicago Commission on Human Relations. “It is our hope that this study will provide the Commission, other governmental entities, community organizations and other stakeholders with the information we need to develop new and creative strategies to assist communities undergoing this kind of change.”

All of the recommendations and the study’s full report are available via the CURL website at www.luc.edu/curl/pubs/pdf/HRC%20Report.pdf.

About the Study
Focus groups and interviews were used to understand perspectives on gentrification and displacement from a range of leaders familiar with the social, economic and cultural impact of community-level economic development. The 68 interviewees or focus group participants included businesspersons, religious leaders, educators, non-profit organization directors and community-based organization staff, among others. Some interviews were completed to get a sense of citywide trends while others focused on two areas of the city that have experienced the most visible reinvestment in recent years-the combined West Town and Humboldt Park communities and the Mid-Southside communities of Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Oakland and Kenwood. These two areas of the city were also selected for closer examination because of their different ethnic and racial characteristics. Mid-South neighborhoods, which are predominantly African-American, are currently experiencing significant gentrification by new primarily African-American residents. West Town and neighboring Humboldt Park are included because of past and continuing reinvestment patterns, along with new community dynamics involving the significant existing Latino population and new non-Latino homeowners.

About Chicago Commission on Human Relations
The Chicago Commission on Human Relations is charged with enforcing the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance and the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance. The Commission investigates complaints to determine whether discrimination may have occurred, and uses its enforcement powers to punish acts of discrimination. Under the City’s hate crime law, the agency aids hate crime victims. CCHR also employs pro-active programs of education, intervention and constituency building to discourage bigotry and bring people from different groups together.

About Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Urban Research and Learning
The Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Urban Research and Learning is a non-traditional university research center. CURL promotes an innovative model of teaching and learning that reaches beyond Loyola’s campuses and classrooms to develop equal partnerships between the university and city or suburban communities. CURL is guided by a mission which places strong emphasis on research that addresses community needs and involves the community at all levels of research. By working closely with community leaders outside the university, the Center combines the knowledge and experience of both university researchers and individuals or organizations in non-academic settings. This produces stronger research outcomes that are highly effective in addressing current and emerging community needs.




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