The Woodstock Institute recently launched a data portal for Chicago and the six-county region. The portal allows users to view data on foreclosures, mortgage lending, occupancy rates, income, and employment. Excited for this new tool, we wanted to try out the portal for ourselves. We decided to analyze the Chicago communities with the highest and lowest vacancy rates. The issue of vacant properties is important because vacancies have increased since the foreclosure crisis and are harmful for neighborhoods. Related problems include safety concerns, health risks, and lower property values. Further, discrimination has occurred across the country in minority neighborhoods. The National Fair Housing Alliance found that some major banks that own foreclosures do not maintain the properties in minority neighborhoods as well as they do in white communities.
Observing 2012 vacancy rates in Chicago, the three community areas with the highest rates are: Riverdale (27.8%), South Chicago (16%), and Englewood (15%). The three community areas with the lowest rates are: Forest Glen (.9%), Norwood Park (1.7%), and Armour Square (1.8%). We used the data portal to learn about different aspects of the neighborhoods and found stark differences between the community areas on opposite sides of the vacancy rate spectrum.
Forest Glen and Norwood Park have similar demographics. Both are located on the Northwest side of the city, are majority white communities, and have a large number of homeowners. Out of the six communities examined, they have the highest average household incomes. In fact, Forest Glen has the largest number of high-income residents and the fewest low-income residents, and there is a $36,000 difference between Norwood Park and the third highest income in the group. Armour Square is a majority Asian community and includes Chinatown in its borders. It has a high rental rate and has the fourth highest average household income of the six communities. Forest Glen, Norwood Park, and Armour Square all have low foreclosure rates and the long-term vacancy rates are less than 50%. The high rental rate may explain the low rates in Armour Square but more information would be needed to support that theory. Many mortgage applications were accepted, showing that people are purchasing homes in these areas.
The neighborhoods of Riverdale, South Chicago, and Englewood look vastly different from the other communities. All three areas are majority black and high rental communities, and are located on the South side of the city. Riverdale and Englewood have the lowest average household incomes of the six neighborhoods analyzed, and South Chicago has the third highest average household income. Riverdale has the lowest number of high-income residents and the largest number of low-income residents. Englewood and South Chicago have relatively high foreclosure rates, which is especially interesting because they are high rental communities. The data shows, however, that many multi-family buildings have been foreclosed in the neighborhoods. In Englewood, more multi-family buildings than single-family homes went into foreclosure. The number of foreclosures in South Chicago were approximately even between multi-family and single-family buildings. Additionally, the long-term vacancy rates for all three neighborhoods are 65% or higher. Few people are buying homes in these three communities – most mortgage applications have been denied, if they were submitted at all. In Englewood and South Chicago, many mortgage applications have been denied since 2007. Beginning in 2008, few applications have been submitted in Riverdale and the majority of those submitted in 2008 were denied.
The vivid pictures described in these six neighborhood profiles reveal much about a larger story of inequality that is present in Chicago. The community areas with very high or very low vacancy rates have other defining characteristics revolved around race, income, and occupancy rates. Chicago is a large urban area and its problems are complex. Woodstock Institute’s data portal is a useful tool to identify and examine community issues. Its user-friendly portal pulls from multiple sources to help users easily work with data. The portal is a great asset for Chicago and the six-county region, and will benefit community leaders as they use the data to create positive change!
Access the Woodstock Institute’s data portal here.
By Casey Griffith, Research and Outreach Coordinator
Vacant properties have increased over the past few years since the housing and foreclosure crisis swept the country. Communities have spent time figuring out how to address the issue, which is partly out of their control when banks and other private investors hold title to many vacant properties. One city is bringing the problem to the people – Louisville, Kentucky recently announced a competition for residents, non-profit organizations, businesses, community groups, anyone with an idea, to offer redevelopment projects for vacant properties. The “Lots of Possibility” competition will award four winners with funds to carry out their proposals on lots owned by the city – two temporary and two permanent projects
Vacant lots are harmful to a neighborhood for several reasons, including health issues, property values, and safety concerns. It is an important issue that impacts an entire community, so this type of public problem-solving is beneficial. First, it brings attention to the issue of vacant properties. People that know and care about the issue are no longer municipal leaders, non-profits, or neighbors of these vacated homes. Residents who are not directly related to the issue are made aware of it and learn the reasons why the problem impacts the entire community.
This increased awareness creates solidarity within the community, uniting people who come together for a specific purpose to better their neighborhood. This also gives residents from different areas within the community the opportunity to build relationships with one another. These intentional connections and community solidarity are valuable for addressing future neighborhood issues.
Similar competitions to “Lots of Possibility” have been utilized in other cities to form a community effort to revitalize neighborhoods. St. Louis, New Orleans, and Youngstown, Ohio have held similar competitions that ask community members to craft unique projects on vacant properties. Projects from other cities have included a public chess venue, a sunflower garden, an orchard, a putting and chipping green, and food gardens. These projects made neighborhoods more desirable to live in and met the needs of the community. For example, inner city youth in Youngstown don’t usually have access to golf courses because they require more space than is available in an urban environment, so the creation of a putting and chipping green allows the youth to learn the game inside their neighborhood.
The competition offers the opportunity for individuals or small neighborhood teams to execute innovative ideas that would otherwise be impossible due to lack of funding and significant community connections. Allowing residents to play a part in the making of their neighborhood creates a culture of community pride. It gives community members agency over their neighborhood and empowers them to continue making their community a desirable place to live. The “Lots of Possibility” competition in Louisville is a positive solution to a community problem – it creates lasting changes and strengthens the neighborhood.
By Casey Griffith, Research and Outreach Coordinator
Photo by Paul Sableman
We are happy to announce that Rock the House is officially sold out! We look forward to seeing you at the event this Saturday!
UPDATE: The event is from 7pm – 10pm on February 1st (one hour longer!)
6 Craft Beers, 5 Special Chef Recipes, and 2 Rockin’ Bands make for a fun evening to support two great causes.
This evening is strictly fun. No speeches or awards. Just a good time and a one-of-a-kind experience you won’t forget. Sip craft beers from accomplished home brewers and taste culinary delights from chefs that call Oak Park home.
Music by Golden with the School of Rock band opening.
Melissa Elsmo – Melissa makes you believe you can enjoy every meal just as she does: fully and enthusiastically. A trained chef and cook with passion, Mel, is a local crackerjack on cooking and dining. Shortly after winning a Jambalaya contest in 2011, she was tapped as contributing food writer for Sun-Times Media and she is currently developing her own cookbook. Mel may have an affection for fine dining, but loves kicking back with a craft beer just as much.
Karl Bader- Karl’s Craft Soup is an Oak Park-based custom homemade soup service that specializes in fresh, small-batch soups prepared thoughtfully with the season’s best ingredients. A longtime Oak Park resident, Karl Bader owned a small eatery (S3 Kitchen) where soups were a mainstay and also the foundation for a variety of healthy-eating lunch projects at several OPRF grammar schools. Karl’s Craft Soup can be delivered locally or available at seasonal farmers markets, a variety of retail stores and on-line. www.karlscraftsoup.com for details.
Su Jang – Owner of New Rose Catering grew up in her family’s Chinese restaurant. Her father told her to learn to cook and she would always have a job. New Rose Catering was formed 4 years ago out of necessity after Su was laid off from her healthcare marketing position and remembered her father’s words and quickly began helping Oak Park, River Forest, and Forest Park busy families answer the dreaded “What’s for Dinner?” question. In addition to providing weekly dinners as a personal chef, New Rose Catering also provides delicious and fun twists on classic dishes for small events catering. Search for New Rose Catering on Facebook.
Rich Klevgard – Graphic Designer Rich Klevgard, from Oak Park has been recreating BBQ classics for well over a decade. His obsession with southern barbecue traces back to his boyhood boarding school days in Chattanooga, Tennesseea car ride down an unpaved road through trees to a shack in the woods where the only smell was burning hickory and the sweet awe inspiring flavors of pork. Today Klevard’s dry rubs vary from sweet to savory with a hints of coffee, caramel, coriander, and a touch of smoked anise. His sauces, often based from locally harvested honey or herb infused rye whiskey, satiate but never overplay the deliciousness of smoked pork. Generous and enthusiastic, he enjoys using his culinary skills as a means to support various causes in the community.
Ron Martin – Cooking Instructor for Cheney Mansion
And now a 6th Chef!
Steve Skrine of Skrine Chops
Craft Brews include:
Session IPA – Dave Kahlow has been brewing for about 23 years and enjoys learning nuances about the brewing process and sharing the brewing experience with people throughout his life. Dave enjoys taking what appear to be simple ingredients and converting them into a variety of beer styles that can be shared with friends and family. Oh yeah, and Dave lived in Portland where he picked up a lot of good tips.
Rye IPA – Nate Hutchinson likes the smell of grains steeping, hops hopping, and the fermentation happening in his home. Sharing his homemade brews is something he has enjoyed for some time. “Sharing your own brew is better than sharing a store-bought brew.”
Hoppy Wheat Beer – Doug Schenkelberg started brewing because of his love of craft beer and wanting understand the art and science behind making a good beer. He has been known to use spreadsheets to keep track of beers. He continues to brew to learn, share, and come up with fun names for the things he create. It also gives him a reason to use the word “saccharification.”
Belgian Blonde – Rick Boltinghouse, Renaissance Man. Father of Seven. Devoted Husband. Ardent Homebrewer.
Milk Stout – Tom Hollinden says there isn’t just one reason he likes to brew – its a combination of having fun, trying new things and the excitement around always ending up with a something that tastes great.
American Brown Ale – John Chapman-Reinstra This brew has dense layers of malt, caramel, baking chocolate, and a hint of roast coffee. John Chapman-Rienstra was inspired to home-brew due to his love of craft brews and increasing beer snobbery, insistence on learning how to do everything, and desire for a new expensive hobby. He is a living testament to, “If this guy can brew craft beer, anyone can.” (He will also have some bottles of Autumn Amber Ale, his first craft brew, on hand, to prove how easy this is.)
Economic development benefits a community in a variety of ways. It expands the tax base, reduces the unemployment rate, brings essential needs closer to residents, and fosters the overall well-being of a community. Economic development is essential in the promotion of neighborhoods of opportunity, which are areas that provide access to daily necessities for residents. Transportation, jobs, retailers, and more are located near homes, allowing community members to stay in their neighborhood for most, if not all, of their needs.
Economic development offers investments in the neighborhood, with the hope that both the businesses and the community will benefit from the additions. Retailers provide employment, place stores closer to residents, and keep money in the community. New grocery stores, specifically, provide accessibility to healthy food options for a neighborhood. Companies – office and manufacturing types – that move or expand locations create jobs for area residents. Housing developments can diversify the housing market and expand the availability of homes in an area. The arts and entertainment sector can also contribute to a community by building an art gallery or theater. These types of developments foster a strong sense of place for community members and businesses, especially when the businesses are owned and managed by area residents.
New businesses bring attention to the community, which often facilitates other developments. A company that hires a large number of people might lead other parties to improve accessible transportation options. A redeveloped walkable district of a community that draws shoppers, diners, and theater-goers can increase tax revenue for the area, allowing for improvements in public works such as schools, parks, or streetscapes. Mixed-use spaces can anchor a specific district in a community. A development that includes retail on the ground level, housing on floors above, and a connected green space can improve a specific area of the community that needs to be revitalized.
In creating communities of opportunity, economic development can also lead to integrated neighborhoods. Because communities of opportunity are desirable places to live, all people want to live in these areas. Developing communities of opportunity fosters sustainable integration because it attracts people of all races and ethnicities to a neighborhood. Everyone wants the same things – good schools, ample transportation options, access to healthcare, strong civic leaders, and more – and neighborhoods of opportunity provide these amenities to residents.
Economic development and collaboration contribute to the creation of neighborhoods of opportunity and foster the development of sustainable integrated communities (see previous blog post for more insight into “collaboration”). Economic development helps strengthen businesses as well as the communities. Collaboration between invested players allows people of different backgrounds to work together.
A strong community of opportunity in which residents, business owners, municipality leaders, non-profit organizations, and employers desire to sustain a vibrant neighborhood closely resembles an integrated community. A system of integration is one in which multiple players love their community, are invested in it, and are committed to maintaining the aspects they love. Through the creation of neighborhoods of opportunity, integration can thrive, and these communities are better for all!
By Casey Griffith, Research and Outreach Coordinator
Photo by “Photo Dean”