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Marchers take to the 606 trail to protest gentrification

Hundreds of protesters sponsored by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association started out at Stowe Elementary School in Chicago on May 17, 2016 and entered the 606 Trail to urge city officials to support ordinances to protect long-time residents from being priced out of their neighborhood.

Nancy Stone

Dozens of people marched Tuesday along The 606 trail to draw attention to families and longtime residents feeling squeezed out of their homes because of increasing property taxes and rising rents in Logan Square.

Logan Square residents like Jennifer Velazquez are stressed over whether they’ll be able to stay as gentrification spreads in the neighborhood.

“We’ve seen our neighborhood change a lot,” she said, pointing out new condos under construction. Her family has owned their home within a block from the trail for a decade and recently received a letter notifying them that property taxes were going up by roughly $1,000, she said.

“For us, to keep living in the Logan Square area is kind of difficult for us because we don’t have a lot of people working to contribute to the family,” Velazquez, 21, said, adding her father, a factory worker, is the sole source of income. It’s scary to contemplate being displaced from their home, she said.

The Logan Square Neighborhood Association, a community group which organized the march, offered proposals on how to keep residents from having to move.

“If we’re going to keep working class families in the community, we need to quickly develop policies, ordinances and new laws that will help balance the development in the community,” said Juliet de Jesus Alejandre, an organizer for the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

Gentrification began before The 606 opened last June, connecting Humboldt Park, Bucktown, Wicker Park and Logan Square by way of an elevated trail linked to four neighborhood parks, de Jesus Alejandre said. But the development of the trail has accelerated the process to the point that “now it’s on steroids where we’re seeing huge mini mansions built and town houses and so much development.”

Earlier this year, the Tribune reported two luxury homes on Humboldt Boulevard, a quarter mile away from the trail, were each listed at $929,000.

In an effort to slow down the gentrification and keep low- and moderate-income residents living next to more affluent neighbors to maintain diverse communities, the association pitched two ideas: creating a property tax rebate and a pilot district where demolition fees would be high.

The property tax rebate would be based on income and not home value and would offer relief to apartment buildings that are owner-occupied or offer affordable rents to tenants. A rebate amount was not specified.

The other proposal focused on creating a district near the west end of The 606 bordered by Hirsch Street to the south, Palmer Street to the north, Western Avenue to the east and Kostner Avenue to the west. Within that district, demolition fees would be based on the number of units in a building being demolished and would range from $10,000 per unit in a building with five or more units to $25,000 for a single-family home.

Currently, the city charges a $500 flat fee for a demolition permit, a Buildings Department spokeswoman said.

The demolition fee revenue would get transferred into a local impact fund with community oversight to be spent on rental subsidies, acquisition and development of affordable housing and grants to repair small buildings within the district under the proposal.

In February, the city announced The 606 Bloomingdale Trail Homeowners Program to provide a forgivable loan up to $25,000 to property owners within two blocks of the trail to be used for home improvements.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, whose Northwest Side 35th ward does not include The 606, showed his support as he walked alongside Chicagoans who were holding signs indicating they were against displacement.

“The families that are here today are simply calling for justice and fairness when it comes to housing in the city of Chicago,” he said.

The alderman, who's a member of the Progressive Caucus, has put forth proposals calling for a rebate for property owners who have an income less than or equal to 400 percent of the federal poverty level--$97,000 for a family of four--and extending the rebate to property owners who don’t raise rents to tenants of that same income benchmark.

Property owners are feeling the pressure in the wallet, said Malcolm Washington, 20, who lives near Kimball Avenue and Cortland Street, where his mother has rented an apartment. Their rent has increased slightly in the past year and the apartment owner told them he’s had offers to sell the building.

“We’re hanging on,” he said, “but there’s no telling how much longer they can stay.”

Posted in Lathrop, Noticias, 606 Bloomingdale Trail, Affordable Housing, Lea el Diario de LSNA