CBA stalled in committee, coalition says

Ashli Perkins holds a sign urging the University of Chicago, the Obama Presidential Foundation and the city of Chicago to sign a legally binding CBA agreement that would guarantee affordable housing for long-term area residents. (Photo by Owen M. Lawson)

Contributing writer

The Obama Community Benefits Agreement Coalition (CBA Coalition) held a teach-in at the School of Social Service Administration on the University of Chicago campus Saturday morning as it continued its efforts to get the CBA Housing Ordinance passed from Committee on Housing and Real Estate to the full City Council for consideration.

Ashli Giles-Perkins of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) kicked off the teach-in with an introduction of the concept of a community benefit agreement and a review the CBA Coalition’s latest effort to codify a CBA through the CBA Ordinance, which was introduced on July 24.

“We have gone now to the past three or four Housing Committee meetings,” said Giles-Perkins to the audience of about 25, most of whom were University of Chicago students. “It has not been on the agenda; it has not been called; it has not been discussed.”

Giles-Perkins then described the efforts that the CBA Coalition has taken to bring attention to the CBA Ordinance and to put pressure on the City Council to consider and pass the ordinance, including the Sept. 6 blockage of Cornell Drive during evening rush hour, reported by the Hyde Park Herald, and the Oct. 28 disruption of an auction, which took place in the Loop, of properties owned in the Woodlawn neighborhood by the Woodlawn Development Corporation, reported by the Chicago Sun Times.

Giles-Perkins said all of these actions were taken by the CBA Coalition while it was in active conversations with City officials.

The teach-in followed on the heels of the Midway Plaisance Advisory Council election of officers on Nov. 13, which, as reported by the Hyde Park Herald, saw the election of incumbent officers, who fended off a challenge by a slate of candidates who strongly favored the construction of the OPC in Jackson Park.

Public discussions surrounding the development of the OPC have largely focused on two issues: the proposed development of the OPC in Jackson Park; and the best way for the City and neighborhoods to manage the economic and demographic consequences of the development of the OPC.

The CBA Coalition is squarely focused on the consequences of the development of the OPC.

Laurel Chen, a graduate student in the School of Social Services Administration, representing UChicago Against Displacement at the teach-in, discussed the demographics of the Woodlawn neighborhood and the effects the OPC and recent University of Chicago developments have had and could have on the neighborhood.

“So, 85% of residents in Woodlawn are black,” said Chen. “The medium household income, there are different ones, but the one I found is $26,000, so low-income; 62% of households are rent-burdened, meaning they are paying more than 30% of their income on rent.

“In the year after the Obama Presidential Center was announced to be coming to Jackson Park, 2017, the home values in Woodlawn increased by 23%. Eviction rates in this area, are among the highest in the city, with South Shore having the highest eviction rates in the city.”

Devondrick Jeffers, an organizer with Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), reviewed in detail the CBA Ordinance, in particular how its 30% set-aside for affordable housing would be implemented in public and privately funded projects.

Jeffers reported that the $62,400 income used as the Area Median Income by the city in determining its affordable housing costs and rates for Woodlawn, was based on “Chicagoland” area median incomes, while the actual median income in Woodlawn was about $26,000.

In an apparent response to a statement made by Pastor Dr. Byron Brazier at an Oct. 22 1Woodlawn Meeting, Jeffers said, “For some reason, when folks hear that we are asking for a 30% set-aside of affordable housing, they have this idea that we’re trying to concentrate poverty, they have this idea that we’re trying to re-create the projects.”

During that Oct. 22 meeting, Pastor Brazier, as reported by the Hyde Park Herald, said, “The way the ordinance is written, where 100% of the land is used as a set-aside for those under 60% of Area Median Income … does provide a form of concentrated poverty, very similar to the rationale that was used to build Robert Taylor and Stateway Homes.”

“That’s not the case,” said Jeffers during the teach-in.

Jeffers then discussed other aspects of the CBA including the creation of an anti-displacement task force that would monitor the implementation of the CBA, the establishment of a community trust fund, and the assignment of the first right to purchase properties in the neighborhood to groups representing residents of the property.

Following the teach-in, during an interview, East Woodlawn resident Michele Williams said: “I’ve watched how they got rid of people in South Shore years ago. They all ran to the suburban area. Now everybody wants to run back.

“That’s not fair to us who have stayed and endured being pushed from one section of the city to another. But,the city seems not to want the CBA. So that tells me it’s good. Anything they don’t want [chuckling] that means it’s a good ordinance.”

Bill Sites Associate Professor in the University of Chicago’s School of Social Services Administration, and Woods Wiser, a senior at the University of Chicago, and a member of the UChicago Against Displacement, also gave presentations during the teach-in.