This past July, the City released a Request for Proposals to develop mixed-use, mixed-income housing – with 30% of units affordable – on 20 lots on 63rd Street between Ingleside and University Avenues. Though this falls short of our demands, notably excluding the lot at 63rd and Blackstone, it is still a major step forward in ensuring that low-income and working-class Black residents will be able to live near and benefit from the coming Obama Center. This proposal will produce around 471 total units – of which at least 157 will be affordable.
This is the first step towards implementing a key promise of the Woodlawn Housing Preservation Ordinance, which we won in 2020. Among other things, that ordinance set aside 52 vacant lots for mixed-income housing, with 30% of that real affordable housing.
The Woodlawn Ordinance did not specify which lots would be set aside for the 30% real affordable housing. Since the passage of the Ordinance, we have been organizing to demand that lots be set aside to produce the greatest number of affordable units. Specifically, we have been demanding that all the City-owned vacant lots on 63rd Street be set aside for 30% affordability.
Last summer, the Mayor and the Department of Housing had yet to set aside any lots, so the CBA Coalition decided to take action. We organized community canvasses, rallies on vacant lots, town-hall meetings, phone-banks, press conferences, a letter signed by dozens of homeowners, and finally a protest at the Mayor’s house. Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor also held firm in pressuring the City to set aside all the lots on 63rd. It's thanks to our actions – and Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor’s steadfast, community-centered leadership – that we moved the City from 0 lots set aside, to then 8 lots, to 13 lots, and ultimately to 20 lots.
To be clear: luxury housing developers wanted the vacant land on 63rd Street. That there will be real affordable housing on 63rd is thanks to everyday people coming together to fight, build power, and ultimately win against the City and the luxury developers. We still have a lot more work to do: we must ensure the developers selected are decided by the community; we must secure the remaining 30 lots, including 63rd and Blackstone, for 30% real affordable housing; we must expand protections in South Shore; and we must win reparations-scale investments in affordable housing from the University of Chicago. We will continue to fight for the community to stay and thrive long after the Obama Center’s completion. This latest victory is a testament to what is to come: we will win these demands because, when we fight we win.