Woodlawn residents fear rents will rise near proposed Obama Presidential Center

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some South Side residents are concerned about keeping housing affordable in Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood.

A community forum Tuesday evening plans to address issues that residents and housing advocates have with the city's plan to keep that neighborhood affordable for everyone.

"The people that you see all the time, it's almost like family," said Patricia Hightower, a Woodlawn resident. "They know you."

They want to remain, but fear they will have to move as rents in the area rise in the neighborhood next to the proposed Obama Presidential Center.

"Why should we be kicked out because this area in now in vogue and we're not," Woodlawn resident Sharon Payne said.

Kyana Bulter says she was already priced out of the neighborhood.

"It's not just my story, its multiple peoples' stories like mine where people are being forced out," Bulter said.

Some residents and affordable housing advocates delivered a letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot Tuesday. They are encouraged to see efforts to address the lack of affordable housing in the city and want to see more immediate effects, like 30% affordable housing in new developments that come to the neighborhood.

"We are already seeing the effects of just the prospect of the Obama Presidential Center being in Jackson Park," said Devondrick Jeffers, of Southside Together Organizing for Power. "Ground hasn't even broken, we've seen the residual effects of that."

Chicago's Department of Housing shared a statement, saying in part: "Ensuring that the Obama Presidential Center creates inclusive growth opportunities while preventing displacement in Woodlawn has been a top priority ... we are committed to working in earnest with the Woodlawn community and a wide range of stakeholders to advance more comprehensive policies that will expand access to affordable housing more broadly throughout the city."

Those who wrote the letter to Mayor Lightfoot hosted a meeting Tuesday night at 5 p.m. at 62nd and Drexel to outline their demands.

And on Thursday, the city hosts an Open House at 5 p.m. at Hyde Park Academy High School to discuss the future of affordable housing in the neighborhood.
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