Residents who call the South Side of Chicago home have recently come forward and revealed to the Washington Post that the construction of the Obama Presidential Center is causing a massive increase in rent for the neighborhood, leading to the displacement of many black families and other long-time residents. Shame, shame, we know your name. Will former President Barack Obama come out and issue an apology or provide some sort of assistance or relief for these folks? I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Back in September 2021, Obama, along with his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, broke ground on the Obama Presidential Center, located on the south side of the city. The center, which takes up a whopping 19-acres of land, will feature a public library, a playground, community centers, and a museum. Because who doesn’t want to spend the day walking through an entire building dedicated to the biggest narcissist in American history?
“The $500 million project has been largely financed by private donors. The construction, which is still ongoing, is estimated to bring $3.1 billion to the community. In addition, it is predicted to generate another $16.5 million in state and local tax revenue,” TheBlaze reported.
While attending the groundbreaking ceremony, the former president spoke with the audience, stating the center would “give back to Chicago and the South Side in particular.”
“The Obama Presidential Center is our way of repaying some of what this amazing city has given us,” he said.
The Obama Foundation Executive Vice President for Civic Engagement, Michael Strautmanis, went on to say, “Our hope and intention is that the people who live there now are able to enjoy the center when it comes online.”
He then claimed that this new project would help create the “opportunity for this to be a success story.”
However, that’s not the story that long-term residents are telling. Many of them have come forward and stated that the center has already started to result in the gentrification of their community. Ever since construction on the project started, investors have snapped up property in the area and then going on to hike up rent prices. During that time, the median rent in the neighborhood has gone up by a staggering 43 percent.
According to data culled from Zillow, home values have skyrocketed to over 130 percent ever since the project was first announced.
“Chicago resident Priscilla Dixon stated that the neighborhoods around the Obama Center used to be close-knit communities home to many black families,” TheBlaze said.
“In political spaces, people can become numbers, experiences can become trends,” Dixon went on to say. “But the reality is that this is about real people, and we don’t want the Obama Center — the center honoring the first black president — to be another page in the long history of displacing black people or doing harm to black families. The city is the only one that can stop that.”
“I’m a working mother who can’t afford to live in my own community that I’ve lived in for 42 years,” Tahiti Hamer, a Chicago resident, said in a statement given to the Post.
Hamer then said that a single mom with three kids was forced to move out of the neighborhood over a year ago because the owner of the property raised her rent by 40 percent.
“Chinella Miller, a South Shore resident, told the Post that her landlord raised the rent by 90%, pushing her to move to another neighborhood. According to Miller, property listings in the area frequently list the Obama Center as a selling point,” the report continued.
William Sites, who works as a professor in the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the University of Chicago spoke with the Post and said, “With a development of this size and economic impact, it was unavoidable that it would have a profound effect on the local housing market and exacerbate existing affordability challenges for many low-income residents of Woodlawn and South Shore.”
“The evidence was pretty clear that even before the groundbreaking, early on in the predevelopment process, housing values were rising quite dramatically in both Woodlawn and South Shore,” Sites said.
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