Woodlawn residents demand protection from rising rent, taxes due to Obama Presidential Center

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CHICAGO — Woodlawn residents are demanding some protection from rising rents and taxes due to the upcoming Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.

A group delivered a letter to Mayor Lightfoot Tuesday afternoon.

Mayor Lightfoot has created a task force to look into affordable housing. On Tuesday, the city outlined its first steps to try to help.

Being chosen for the $500 million project comes with concern about what the center will mean for whose who have called Woodlawn home for decades.

“What will happen is that rents will increase, people will be displaced,” Sheryl Pain said with the CBA Coalition. “We will be forced to move.”

Pain along with others are fighting for a community benefits agreement with the city that would ensure rents and taxes will not skyrocket with the center is completed.

“Should be affordable for seniors and working class families,” Pain said.

Mayor Lightfoot has set up a task force to study affordable housing in the city and there is a proposed ordinance that would give Woodlawn residents a say in housing.

The first of two public meetings on the topic was held Tuesday night.

20th Ward Ald. Jeanette Taylor said the new affordable housing proposal isn’t even close to good enough and said she’ll try to kill it if big changes aren’t made.

“Why is that anytime investment is made in black or brown communities, we are the folks that are pushed out?” Taylor said.

30 percent of housing stock is guaranteed to be long-term affordable and 25 percent is vacant land owned by Chicago.

The ordinance also gives tenants the right to refuse landlords of large buildings from selling refinancing help. It also sets aside residential-zoned land for affordable or mixed income.

Princella Jarbu Lee, who lives in Washington Park, fears her neighborhood will be left out.

“There is no protection for surrounding communities,” she said. “I definitely believe there will be a massive push out of those people who have been in the community for a long time."

Jarbu Lee and others want 30 percent of housing to be declared affordable and they want the city to define affordable as an income of $40,000. They said the city’s definition is more than $60,000,

The city council may take a look at this ordinance as soon as next month.

The next public meeting is scheduled for Thursday at Hyde Park High School from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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