Web Preview: Housing

In addition to the print publication, AREA occasionally develops special web features: edited collections around a specific topic or theme. These features may be connected to a print issue or may be exclusive to the web. Here you can find a Special Web Preview for Issue #13: Housing, scheduled to appear in print in March 2013.

Issue 13 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. This sampling of pieces to appear in the print issue reflect the issue’s broad themes, including 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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.