To the Editor:
Kyana Butler is a longtime Woodlawn resident. In order to make a better way for her daughter she has worked her whole life at local grocery stores and non-profit organizations. Kyana has built a community in Woodlawn by working with neighbors to bring resources to local schools and to end violence. However, once the Obama Presidential Center was announced in Jackson Park and rents started to rise across Woodlawn, Kyana was priced out of her neighborhood.
The Woodlawn Affordable Housing ordinance, the result of advocacy by the Obama Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition, is intended to help create and preserve affordable housing across the community. However, the current draft leaves out residents who have already been forced to leave, and those who will be displaced in the near future.
Woodlawn residents are asking for the ordinance to include a Right to Return policy, which would give displaced Woodlawn residents a preference in moving into soon-to-be-built affordable units. This will allow residents who have built and contributed to the culture of Woodlawn to return home. Amending the ordinance to include Right to Return does not require any additional dollars and would go a long way towards rebuilding the community.
With all the jobs and investments the Obama Center will bring, residents will be able to live in stable housing while continuing to contribute to Woodlawn’s culture. Black-owned businesses would flourish, and the neighborhood’s Black middle class would be restored by hiring locally and having patrons who are committed to the neighborhood. This would usher in a true Woodlawn Renaissance.
However, this can happen only if residents who carry the memory and legacy of Woodlawn are able to remain and reap the benefits. Chicago has lost almost 100,000 Black residents this past decade. The city cannot continue to ignore its Black citizens, such as Kyana, who have given so much to their community and their family.
Mayor Lightfoot must seize this opportunity to advance racial equity when our city desperately needs it; add the Right to Return to the Woodlawn Affordable Housing Ordinance.
Woodlawn Baptist Church pastor