What's changed since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led Chicago's fair housing movement?

ByKay Cesinger WLS logo
Sunday, January 15, 2023
Our Chicago Part 1: What's changed since MLK led fair housing effort?
Representatives from the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago and City Year representatives talked about MLK's impact on the fair housing movement

CHICAGO (WLS) -- On Monday, we'll honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights leader may be best known for his work in the South.

But for a time in 1966, he and his family were in Chicago, living on the West Side.

While in the city, King led a fair housing effort.

Anthony E. Simpkins is the president and CEO of Neighborhood Housing Services Chicago. He previously worked for the Leadership Council For Metropolitan Open Communities, the Chicago fair housing organization founded by King. He said some things haven't changed.

"The Black ownership rate in the United States today is at about 40%. It's the same as it was in 1968 when the Fair Housing Act was passed. That's compared to an average home ownership rate of about 75% for U.S. white households and about 50% for Hispanic households. You know, in 1977, Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act, or the CRA, which required banks to lend in disinvested low and moderate income communities including Black and Latino communities. Yet today, if you are a Black or Latino applicant for a mortgage, you're two to three times more likely to be denied that mortgage than the average white applicant."

He said Neighborhood Housing Services focuses on home ownership because it is "so key" to building both family and community wealth. He said there's about $21 trillion in household wealth in the United States. About 70% of a family's wealth is tied to their home.

"A home is not just a roof over a family's head. A home creates community. It creates neighborhood stability. A family can leverage the equity in their home to send their children to college, to save for retirement," Simpkins said.

WATCH | Our Chicago Part 2: Honoring MLK with day of service

On Monday, across the country and in Chicago, people will honor King by performing a Day of Service.

On Monday, across the country and in Chicago, people will honor King by performing a Day of Service.

That includes City Year Chicago. City Year is a national service program in which young adults do a year of community service. Myetie Hamilton is the senior vice president and executive director of City Year Chicago.

"We have over 400 volunteers, including our Americorps members, and we beautify the entire school," Hamilton said.

This year, it's Parkside Elementary on the South Side of Chicago. She said it is "amazing" when you see the faces of the students the next day when they come into their building and they "embrace the beauty of their climate and their culture."

"This is really providing young people an example of the power that they possess. When they live in their passion, when they believe in themselves and when they unite to make a difference," Hamilton said.

For more information on Neighborhood Housing Services, visit https://www.nhschicago.org/ or call 773-329-4111.

And, for more information on City Year Chicago, visit https://www.cityyear.org/chicago/.