The Woodlawn Housing Data Project

The Report

Five key findings

  1. High Vacancy: An estimated 27% of properties in Woodlawn are “inactive,” including vacant buildings and vacant land, and many are owned by local government, presenting an opportunity for development without displacement.
  2. At-Risk Renters: Woodlawn is predominantly (78%) a neighborhood of renters, many of whom are low-income and already rent-burdened. They face great uncertainty regarding their long-term ability to stay in Woodlawn.
  3. At-Risk Homeowners: Many longtime homeowners are low-income or fixed income and therefore financially vulnerable. As these cost-burdened homeowners face rising property taxes and home repair costs, they risk losing their homes.
  4. Increased Market Activity: Development activity is accelerating in Woodlawn, especially east of Cottage Grove. Without intervention, this activity will put more financial pressure on longtime residents – homeowners and renters alike.
  5. Inadequate Resources: Over time, some government programs that previously helped support housing needs in Woodlawn have been reduced or eliminated, leaving an inadequate amount of resources and few strategies for Woodlawn residents to address the issues noted above.

Summary of WECAN’s policy recommendations

The following policy recommendations are designed to prevent resident displacement in Woodlawn while welcoming the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) and contributing to the growth of its host neighborhoods:

To ensure adequate housing resources are available and accessible to current Woodlawn residents:

  1. Fund a centralized Housing Resource Center to serve residents of Woodlawn, with the possibility of later expansion to serve residents in surrounding neighborhoods.
  2. Establish a new 5-year $25 million Housing Fund to invest in the needs of current residents.
  3. Conduct a Community Census to better understand the housing and other needs of current residents.

To bring vacant land back to productive use in Woodlawn in a way that benefits current Woodlawn residents:

  1. Implement a collaborative community process to establish a collective vision for utilization of vacant land in a way that supports the needs of longtime residents.
  2. Repurpose the Woodlawn TIF, with priority uses to include investment in affordable housing and home repairs.
  3. Decide on the mechanism to preserve and maintain affordable housing units permanently in Woodlawn. This could include partnerships with the Chicago Community Land Trust and other emerging local land trusts.

To protect long-time homeowners at risk of displacement:

  1. Establish property tax relief for income-eligible residents who have owned a home in Woodlawn for at least ten years, through state legislation or another funding mechanism.
  2. Provide property repairs assistance, and pro bono legal assistance and property tax assistance.

To protect long-time renters at risk of displacement:

  1. Collaborate with the Preservation Compact to develop and implement a focused Woodlawn strategy, utilizing a variety of tools to preserve existing rental housing units.
  2. Ask the City of Chicago to monitor condo and single-family home conversion activity and protect longtime residents of Woodlawn from displacement.