This open letter was sent to the Black Caucus of the Chicago City Council, on behalf of Neighbors for Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park, a group advocating in favor of the proposed mixed-income, affordable housing development at 5150 N. Northwest Highway. The proposed 100-unit development has unleashed a fierce backlash.
Dear Honorable Members of the Aldermanic Black Caucus,
We write to make you aware of a brewing battle about racial justice on Chicago’s northwest side. We are writing you on behalf of Neighbors for Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park, an independent group of Northwest Side neighbors working to make our community more accessible, tolerant, and inclusive. Interruptions made during the May 9th Zoning Committee meeting were designed to raise awareness of the pivotal issues facing Jefferson Park and a segment of that community that is organizing against affordable housing along explicitly racist, segregationist lines. Our group represents a grassroots constituency of those strongly supportive of Planned Development #19084 and its proposed inclusion of affordable and CHA-subsidized housing. From the outset, opposition to this development has been built and sustained by appeals to social exclusion, homeowner entitlement, and racist paranoia. While reviving the worst of our city’s political past, the opposition draws fuel and funds from the worst of our nation’s political present. We are determined to stand up and fight back. We have heard the call on North and Northwest Side communities to, at long last, do their part, and we answer that call by building a community that welcomes mixed-income and CHA-subsidized neighbors with open arms.
For us to succeed, we need you to know the discriminatory nature of opposition to this proposal that member of the Black Caucus will be asked to attend. We need your help to stand firm in upholding fair housing laws, won through bitter struggle and now at risk of being undermined. Because this is so important, we ask you to encourage your colleagues to stay for the duration of the meeting, maintain a quorum, and pass this Proposed Development.
We briefly disrupted the May 9th Zoning hearing because the agenda was supposed to include the first half of this Planned Development. Instead, a special hearing was granted even though so much testimony has already been heard and even though the racial animus of opponents of this housing is now infamous. We are outraged that, despite the overt bigotry of those opposing this Planned Development, they are being afforded unprecedented deference.
Sixty years ago, federal troops were deployed to defend integration from organized White Citizens Councils. Today in Chicago, groups in that vein are being granted unique privileges. The precedent this sets, and the civic-moral slippage this represents, is chilling.
We demand of our own communities on the north and northwest sides a sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of our fellow Chicagoans. We will not tolerate segments of our community who want to carry forward with a sense of entitlement to isolated, guarded islands of opportunity amidst a grossly inequitable city. Please help defend our ability to highlight the need for accessible, affordable housing in our testimonies. Please encourage your fellow Black Caucus members on the Zoning Committee to attend the hearing for Planned Development #19084, stay to maintain a quorum, and vote to approve this Planned Development.
Very sincerely yours,
On behalf of Neighbors for Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park