Study Shows ‘Clear Evidence of Rising Rents’ Near Obama Center Site

It didn’t take long after former President Barack Obama announced he’d chosen Chicago’s Jackson Park as home of his future presidential center that qualms broke through residents’ general joy.

A just-published study from the University of Illinois Chicago’s Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement is giving credence to those misgivings. Even though there’s still been no official groundbreaking on the center, which is tied up in a federal court battle, the study shows housing prices have risen within 2 miles of the center.

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The study – which compiled housing data broadly from the Greater Grand Crossing, Hyde Park, South Shore, Washington Park and Woodlawn communities – shows “clear evidence of rising rents in newly renovated and new construction units, which the majority of current rents cannot afford” and that eviction rates in the area are some of the city’s highest (citing South Shore averaging 1,800 a year).

Voorhess Center co-director Janet Smith says most homeowners in the area have incomes in the $75,000 range.

“So they’re good in terms of income. But we’re concerned about is while many of them can afford their housing now, what we found in the data is that housing prices are going up, and maybe at a faster rate – it looks like in the first few years – than in the city of Chicago,” Smith said. “So I may want to live in that neighborhood and stay in that neighborhood but if my housing values goes up that means my taxes go up, and can they stay?”

Smith also said the study found there’s a lot of vacant land in the area, much of which is city-owned.

She views that as an opportunity for the city to create mixed-housing developments.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

Related stories:

Obama Library Brings Elation But Also Fear of Displacement

Report: Obama Center Will Have ‘Adverse Effect’ on Jackson Park

Judge: Obama Center Construction Can Move Forward in Chicago

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