Residents of the Chicago area where the Obama Center will be constructed as a memorial to former President Barack Obama and to hold his presidential documents are furious that they are being displaced.
“This is the community that sent him to the White House, and we should be the community that gets to stay and benefit from the presidential center,” said Dixon Romeo, founder of the community organization Not Me We, according to The Washington Post.
“We’re not against the center, but we are against gentrification. We are against displacement,” Romeo said, according to the Guardian.
“Our demands show there’s a way to have the Center without having displacement — or at least policies in place to mitigate it. Right now there are none,” he said.
— Jack Poso 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) April 4, 2023
The Post said that a recent vote supported by 90 percent of South Shore residents of Chicago demanded that the city secure the availability of affordable housing in the downtown area.
Michele Williams, age 80, is pessimistic.
“The Obama Center is not being built for Chicago,” she said at a recent community meeting. “It’s being built for the world.”
Those people “don’t want us here. So what do you think is going to happen?” she said.
Michael Strautmanis, executive vice president for civic engagement at the Obama Foundation, stated that the organization aspires to discover a method to make everyone happy.
“Our hope and intention is that the people who live there now are able to enjoy the center when it comes online,” Strautmanis said. “There is an opportunity for this to be a success story.”
However, the Post discovered that median rents in three zip codes around the center had increased by 43 percent since the announcement of the location selection in 2015. The increase in home values exceeds 130 percent.
According to the Illinois Answers Project, roughly a third of the homes purchased in the fourth quarter of 2022 were acquired by investors.
“With a development of this size and economic impact, it was unavoidable that it would have a profound effect on the local housing market and exacerbate existing affordability challenges for many low-income residents of Woodlawn and South Shore,” said William Sites, a professor in the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the nearby University of Chicago.
“The evidence was pretty clear that even before the groundbreaking, early on in the predevelopment process, housing values were rising quite dramatically in both Woodlawn and South Shore,” he continued.
Many agreed with a Twitter poster who noted that the penalty paid by black residents of Chicago is “literally the perfect representation of Obama’s entire political career.”
— New York Post (@nypost) April 4, 2023
Literally the perfect representation of Obama's entire political career.
— IntenseLogik (@IntenseLogik) April 4, 2023
His legacy is more important than your homes & your lives. It's a shame people are just finding this out.
— Hades (@wolvesofhades) April 4, 2023
Tahiti Hamer knows how that feels.
In 2021, the year the facility was constructed, her rent increased by forty percent. There was no response from the landlord to pleas to lessen the increase.
“She said, ‘Oh, you know, the area is changing. My taxes have gone up. So, that’s it, then. I’m a working mother who can’t afford to live in my own community that I’ve lived in for 42 years,’” Hamer stated.
“What these community members are asking for is merely that they have a chance to stay in the community once the conditions many of them have suffered through, in some cases for generations, begin to change,” Sites said.
“Unfortunately, they’ve started to change not because the people who live there are, on their own, deserving of investment and opportunity, but because outside investors have determined that these are places they want to develop,” he said.