#13 Housing

AREA Issue #13: Home Fronts, Housing Struggles explores the contested ground where we live and have lived: the history and current state of “housing” in Chicago and the political, personal, and imaginative meanings that accompany these physical spaces and the struggles for them. The issue’s themes include stories and histories of housing in Chicago; the CHA’s Plan for Transformation and its ongoing aftermath; current struggles in Chicago around foreclosure and eviction, detention, and uneven development; housing alternatives and the labor of care; and the effects of gentrification in the Pilsen neighborhood

Edited by Rebecca Zorach.


CHAos Revisited

By CHAos Agents — 3rd Rail, its members remaining anonymous, decided the CHAnge campaign would be the target of their intervention, which they called CHAos: a counter-narrative about what had happened to public housing in Chicago through the lens of five power-brokers who had in some way benefited from the changes: Mayor Daley, Terry Peterson, Dan McLean, Alphonso Jackson, and Daniel Levin of the Habitat Company. After seven years and 13 issues of AREA, the organizers of the CHAos project thought it would be worthwhile to reflect on this ambitious project by asking trusted allies familiar with the work to pose challenging questions related to the legacies of CHAos and CHAnge.


The Battle for Uptown

By Alison Fisher — ... five brightly colored murals on a row of garage doors form a living history of the neighborhood, extolling virtues of diversity and memorializing the community’s struggle to preserve affordable housing. One mural depicts “Tent City,” a 1988 protest to demand new scattered-site public housing. Another recalls a traumatic period in the 1970s when areas of the Uptown–Edgewater neighborhood experienced as many as 400 fires in a single year, resulting from physical neglect, vandalism, and documented cases of arson for profit. [...] Uptown has been defined by a multigenerational struggle to protect its most vulnerable inhabitants from the violence of urban renewal, and the slow, but no less dramatic transformation of market-driven gentrification.

image by David Nekimken

The Value of Living in a Co-operative Community

By David Nekimken — There are many models for co-op housing communities, from renting a room in a house with ample common community space to owning/renting an apartment with some common community space to a co-housing community with a mix of ownership, rental, and common areas. Qumbya is a model of renting one's own room. This model will be the basis for my discussion of co-op housing communities. What are the main features that make our co-op affordable, desirable, and enticing? Why is this unconventional way of living such an attractive alternative?


Home Economics

By Heather Radke — ... we are still haunted by many of the same problems the original group of reformers were attempting to confront: lack of childcare options, the de-valuing of care work, a consumer society that is not connected to how goods are made, unfair labor conditions for domestic workers, gender inequity, and hunger and malnutrition. These problems hit us hardest in our daily lives, in our most personal moments and spaces, and prompt questions that can feel mundane, private, and outside of political and social conversations. Who will do the dishes tonight? What will my child eat? Just how clean does my house have to be? Who will take care of my dying parent?

wood near 21st, el Popocetapetl

A Day Without Public Art in Pilsen

By Nicole Marroquin — There are organizations, galleries and artists operating from within Pilsen that do not interact at all with Mexican residents or contribute to the collective public culture, but benefit from affordable rent and the status of being located in a fashionable neighborhood. This exacerbates the already tense exchanges because people do not know what motivates other people to do what they do. It has led to mounting suspicion, deepening divisions, and growing gulfs between different groups of creative producers. While this might be attributed to natural differences between creative groups and generations, many of the divisions are along race and class lines.

Image from Whittier La Casita Occupation. Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee

Ocupados / Occupations and Tent Cities

By Jayne Hileman — How do we sustain our spirit of resistance and maintain positive energies to “keep on keeping on” for the long term against enormous odds? One way is to revisit models of past organized, creative, and sustained resistance to economic, ethnic, and class inequality to find options for action and inspiring models for resilience. The exhibit Occupados/Occupations at Art in These Times will document recent historical moments of collective resistance. By providing a visual record of past spaces, communities, and concepts of collective, spatialized resistance, we hope to unite imagination and action today.


The New Housing Boom: “Secure” Housing of Immigrants

By Rozalinda Borcila and Daniel Carrillo — The immigrant is an experiment in non-personhood, resulting in new forms of the prison and new forms of state violence that in turn serve to shape the domestic penal system. 

The “housing boom” is not just about market expansion and increased legal exclusion, it is also about how imprisonment as a form of “secure housing” is stretching over all social space.

Where We Are Living Now. Inheriting the Grid #13

By Rebecca Zorach — Could we imagine a broader, more diverse, more ambitious set of visions for the future? What we have here is a start. But it’s up to you—up to all of us—to keep enriching it with new ideas and new possibilities to make something different of the places where we live.

Chicago’s Other 1968. Black Struggles for Housing Justice

By Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor — Most of the vast literature written on Black struggles for equality in the 1960s has prioritized campaigns for “open” or “fair” housing, creating the impression that neighborhood integration was the focus of struggles against housing inequality. But the prolificacy of substandard housing in African American communities spurred political activism aimed at improving living conditions and […]

Stories of Struggle. Foreclosure and Eviction in Chicago

By Merlene Robinson-Parsons, Maria Dolores, Gloria Harris, Virginia Morales, V icente Gutierrez, Mary Bonelli, Marci a Iza, Silvia Baca, Yesenia Tellez, Patricia Hill, Kim Scardina, Patricia Scardina, John Newman, V ictoria Rivera, & Keosha Cummings — On August 9, 2012, Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction (CUAFE), the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign , and the Centro Autónomo of Albany Park  held a joint meeting to demand a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. Chicagoans affected by the foreclosure and eviction crisis— both owners and renters, including public housing residents—testified to their experiences amidst […]

Are we who we are regardless of where we lay our heads? Selections from the Neighborhood Writing Alliance

By NWA authors, Curated by Hollen Reischer — The following collection of writings spans a decade and a range of interpretations of housing and home. Yet the interplay between the internal and external is clear throughout. Are we who we are regardless of where we lay our heads? Or are our selves mediated through the experiences to which we are subjected or subject […]

Home Economics. An exhibition takes on the surprising feminist history of household science and brings attention to present-day domestic labor

By Heather Radke — My grandmother raised ten kids. She  was  pregnant or nursing for almost twenty years  straight. She had twelve pregnancies, eight  biological children who grew to be adults, and  adopted two more kids on top of all that. She  did the laundry all day, every day.  She made gallons of soup and pickles from  scratch and […]

WWII Veterans’ Housing in West Ridge, 1946–1947

By Larry Shure — In September 1946, the Chicago Daily Tribune printed an article announcing plans for a 92-unit development intended for WWII veterans on 3.6 acres on Ridge Avenue, north of Devon. At the time this was a sparsely developed area, dotted with the single-family frame houses and small truck farms that epitomized the early character of West […]

From the Archives: Housing is a Queer Issue. How Queer to the Left took on gentrification in Uptown

By Editor —       The Chicago queer activist group Queer to the Left  formed in the late 1990s as a multiracial, multigenerational group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people fighting for racial, economic, gender, and sexual justice. Initially forming to take on what participants saw as the racism and growing conservatism of the mainstream, […]

The Work That Makes All Work Possible. Organizing for basic labor rights for household workers

By The Chicago Coalition of Household Workers with Heather Radke — Domestic workers are professionals who provide critical care for homes, children, elders, parents and neighbors, yet they have been excluded from many basic labor protections. The Chicago Coalition for Household Workers is organizing Chicago’s domestic workers and is part of a national effort to advocate for dignity and basic labor protections for domestic workers. Several […]

Housing Struggles in Immigrant Communities. Fighting the banks and finding solutions with the Centro Autónomo

By Tom Hansen- Centro Autónomo De Albany Park — Maria finds herself in a difficult position. After years of physical and psychological abuse by her husband, she filed for divorce. To make life more difficult for her, Maria’s husband has contested the divorce, although it is inevitable. They bought a home together 10 years ago, with the Wells Fargo mortgage in his name. When […]

Affordable, Accessible, Intergrated Housing For All. Strategies in the fight for disability rights

By Adam Ballard — My name is Adam Ballard, and as a wheelchair user and as a member of ADAPT, the national grassroots direct action disability rights group that fights to end Medicaid’s institutional bias.1 I have seen firsthand the enormous need for housing that is accessible, affordable, and integrated into the community. Without it, folks with disabilities are […]

Introducing: 6018north

By Tricia Van Eck — 6018north is a home-based experiment in challenging the boundary between private and public. The project asks how and where individual self-interest can interact with collective action and community engagement. 6018 north’s first exhibition The Happiness Project—presented in Chicago storefronts and public spaces in November 2011—re-imagined how individuals might transform underutilized private and public property by […]

Introducing: CivicLab and the TIF Illumination Project

By Tom Tresser — The CivicLab is a new space for innovation and tool building for civic engagement. We are organizing to open a storefront space in the Logan Square area in mid-2013 where organizers, activists and educators collaborate with technologists and designers to do research, teach civics, and build tools to accelerate community improvement efforts. Our first project […]

Development and Displacement in South Chicago. The New Downtown and the Same Old Story

By Crystal Vance Guerra — The South Side of Chicago may not seem the most likely area to be paired with the word “downtown,” but the plan is already in motion. Lakeside Chicago is a 30-year redevelopment project of the former U.S. Steel mill site located in the South Chicago neighborhood. Spanning from 79th & Brandon to 87th & Greenbay, […]

The New Housing Boom. “Secure” Housing of Immigrants (Full Version)

By Rozalinda Borcila & Daniel Carrillo — Immigrant detention and the forced removal of undesirable migrants are part of a long history of federal, local, and individual practices that criminalize certain (especially nonwhite) immigrants, resulting in their overall inequality. Mass detention and deportation intensify in times of “crisis,” in the name of fighting a war, defending the homeland, or protecting good “American” […]

No Borders, No Cages! Walking to Crete for Justice

By José G. Herrera Soto — Under the Obama Administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has deported 1.4 million people from the US. This is more than any other US administration. The deportation process implies a constant need to “house” deportees: on any given day there are at least 400,000 immigrants in detention spaces—prisons. One way this hits close to […]

Clearing Mutuality. A floating utopia in an unexpected Chicago Location

By Basia Toczydlowska — I have spent the past five years teaching at a neighborhood elementary school located in Chicago’s Clearing  neighborhood. Clearing is located on the Southwest side of Chicago, a subdivision between present-day Nashville and Narragansett and between 59th and 63rd Streets. The subdivision is named after the Clearing Industrial District  where farm goods were “cleared” through […]

Tower in the Park. Was the high-rise project as we knew it actually inevitable?

By Alison Fisher — The “tower in the park” model is often invoked to explain the failure of highrise public housing constructed in major American cities from the 1950s to the 1960s, including Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes, once the largest housing project in the world, now entirely demolished. Yet, this narrative is troublingly vague and ahistorical, as it downplays […]

Gautreaux v. Urban Renewal: Documenting a key legal case in the history of public housing

By Damon Rich —  Gautreaux v. Urban Renewal (Damon Rich, Celina Su and Prem Krishnamurthy, 2003) was a twenty-foot information mural providing a timeline for a landmark class-action lawsuit about race and public housing in Chicago. It was exhibited in 2004 at Mess Hall as part of the exhibition The City Without a Ghetto: Housing Systems. The Gautreaux case […]

Introducing: The Emmett Till House. A wish for West Woodlawn

By Phillis Humphries — Emmett Till lived across the street. He left for vacation in 1955 to visit relatives in Money, Mississippi; that same summer his body was returned to this city in a casket brutally disfigured, almost unrecognizable. Emmett was one of many residents of what has been called a “tight little island” (in the book of that […]

What’s Gentrification Got to Do With It? An Interview with Deborah Taylor

By Phillis Humphries —  Deborah Taylor is a staunch advocate/activist for safe, affordable housing. Ms.Taylor grew up in the Ida B. Wells housing project. The housing complex was located on the east side of King Drive to the west curb of  Cottage Grove, 37th street on the north to 39th Street on the south. Most of that area is […]

Housing and the Cultural Politics of Mixed-Income Schools. Challenging the ‘deconcentration’ consensus

By Pauline Lipman —  Adapted from Pauline Lipman, “The Cultural Politics of Mixed-Income Schools and Housing: A Racialized Discourse of Displacement, Exclusion, and Control” Anthropology & Education Quarterly Volume 40, 2009, pp. 215–236.  Coalescing around cultural explanations of poverty, mainstream policymakers and academics have consolidated a dominant neoliberal narrative about reducing poverty in urban areas. They contend that intractable […]

Saving the Lathrop Homes. The fight to preserve public housing on the northwest side

By Mary Pattillo — Many years ago, when I was doing research on the transformation of a public housing project on Chicago’s South Side, the then-CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), Lewis Jordan, came to a community meeting and stated, “We are not in the business of putting people out of housing.” I was happy to hear this, […]

Driving by the CHA. Residents and Former Residents Telling Their Stories

By Ingrid Haftel, Kelly Humrichouser, & Bert Stabler — A group associated with AREA Chicago has been working for a little over a year on the CHA Drive By Project, an attempt to gather and archive audio narratives from current and former residents of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), particularly those affected by the CHA’s Plan for Transformation. As our work progressed, we became […]

“We’re Cultural Workers” Jose Guerrero and the Pilsen Mural Tour

By Nyki Salinas-Duda — A black and white print leaning against the window depicts a pair of sinister businessmen  sitting and digging into a cake with “Pilsen” scrawled across its front. A dog—an emaciated Chihuahua—guards a few scraps between its front paws, waiting for another crumb to fall to the floor. A sign in the background translates to: “Your […]

Crowdfunding Affordable Housing Preservation. Owning and managing rental property as a social enterprise

By Mark Walden —  Ernesto is a carpetlayer. Benigno is a house painter. Nathan is a musician. Adriana is a hairdresser. Randy is a theater set builder. José works in a printing plant. They are all renters in a few buildings that I own cooperatively in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, which for more than a century has been […]

Housing Development and Community Destabilization in Pilsen. How development agendas destroy housing options and dismantle the fabric of the neighborhood

By Euan Hague & Winnifred Curran — The neighborhood of Pilsen was on the front lines of the real estate boom of the early 2000s. New condominiums were constructed, warehouses were converted into lofts, and local residents led protests at City Hall  and held community meetings opposing speculative real estate development. Many individuals and organizations such as the Pilsen Alliance  and its […]

Students and Sit-ins at Whittier Elementary School. Housing gentrification, school enrollments, and a grassroots battleground

By Euan Hague & Winnifred Curran — The impact of housing gentrification on school enrollments is rarely studied in a systematic manner. There is evidence that the demographic shifts accompanying gentrification lead to a reduction in the number of school-aged children in a neighborhood and, as a 2006 Loyola University  report indicated, gentrification processes in Chicago are lowering population densities as single […]

First Things First. The Housing First and Harm Reduction models in services for the homeless

By Loren A. Seeger — Poverty and homelessness are receiving an increased amount of national attention lately as people finally realize that their stereotypes of what these issues “look like” are far off track. With the economy continuing to slide, more and more individuals and families are losing their jobs, their housing, their health, and their comfort. We are finally […]

Co-operative Living as Path to Revolutionary Parenting. Sidestepping government and market-based childcare

By Jennie Rudderham & Jasson Perez — Many families today live in discrete units, geographically distant from extended family or kin, parenting in isolation. In Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center , bell hooks  critiques this state of parenting, arguing for tax-funded public childcare centers and the equal participation of men in childcare. As parents living in Stone Soup Co-op , we […]

“We can only be human together” A Reflection on Providing Hospitality

By Marie Shebeck — I live at the White Rose Catholic Worker, an intentional community that focuses on faith, resistance, sustainability, and hospitality. There are over 150 Catholic Worker houses of hospitality in the US. Our movement was founded in the 1930s by Peter Maurin  and Dorothy Day  as an experiment in practicing Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and […]

St. Leonard’s House. Housing as an Anti-Recidivism Strategy

By Jesse Proudfoot — Victor Gaskins is quick to point out that  St. Leonard’s House is not really a housing provider. Housing is simply a benefit of participating in the program that this “re-entry services facility”—commonly known as a halfway house—offers to men being released from Illinois’ prison system. Gaskins, who has acted as director of the Near West […]

Introducing: The Black Cinema House

By Michael W. Phillips, Jr. — The Black Cinema House (BCH) inhabits a formerly abandoned two-flat in Chicago’s Grand Crossing neighborhood. In 2012, artist Theaster Gates restored the house, installing a state-of-the-art screening room. The space is programmed by Gates’s Rebuild Foundation and is partially funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Placemaking grant. The BCH has a two-part […]

Undocumented Renters. Finding a “Paperless” Lease

By Nyki Salinas Duda —  The woman threw a sideways glance towards her husband. “We can’t,” she seemed to say as a drawn but sturdy man with a South Side accent rifled around in a drawer and, relying on a thin cane, hobbled toward them with a short stack of papers.  “Just fill out the first page,” he said, licking […]

A Home Beyond Nursing Homes. The advantages of home and community-based services

By Jake Norris — As a case manager for a community mental health agency, I meet with nursing home residents to discuss the possibility of independent living. While completing intake paperwork, one routine question I ask is if the resident has ever experienced homelessness. Several tell me they currently are. In a state lacking infrastructure and funding for mental […]