On October 18th and 25th, Action Now members held two big community meetings, one on the South Side and one on the West Side, to mobilize hard-hit communities around the issue of vacant buildings and Action Now’s Rebuild Chicago campaign. Over 200 community residents attended the meetings to share their experiences with vacant properties on their blocks and to learn about how to build power to address the problem and create change their neighborhoods. Alderman Toni Foulkes and Representative Esther Golar were present at the South Side meeting, and Congressman Danny Davis and Alderman Jason Irvin spoke at the West Side meeting.
The city’s current policy to address the problem of vacant buildings is to demolish them, leaving behind equally troubling vacant lots. Action Now members are proposing an alternative solution that would revitalize their communities by bringing families back into the homes that banks forced people out of. The goal of Rebuild Chicago is to improve communities by reducing the amount of vacant buildings, creating jobs, decreasing violence and crime, increasing property values and lowering property taxes. We want the city to invest in our communities instead of tearing them down!
Background: Vacant buildings have been a central issue for Action Now members for years because they attract crime and violence, are an eyesore for residents and decrease property values while raising property taxes for surrounding homes. The largest numbers of vacant buildings are concentrated on the South and West sides of Chicago in Action Now’s communities. Therefore, members decided to hold two big community meetings, one on the South Side and one on the West Side, to unify and galvanize working families to fight for change and demand that the city invest in a solution to the destruction that vacant buildings have brought to their neighborhoods.
Rebuild Chicago: Action Now members have developed a campaign to address the problem of vacant buildings called, “Rebuild Chicago” which would begin with establishing a city housing trust through a city ordinance. A housing trust is a nonprofit entity that receives properties donated by banks or municipalities. These properties are then lent for free to private or Community Development Corporation developers through customized Request For Proposal (RFP) agreements. The RFP details the terms of the conditions of the loan, such as that the property must be mixed income and local contractors must do the construction work. Because the properties are lent for free, costs normally associated with the acquisition of property can be used instead to redevelop and manage the property.
CMW Newstips, “Rebuild neighborhoods by rehabbing vacant homes”